The Russian attack on Ukraine marks a turning point – and unequivocally shows that Europe must be ready to invest strategically in its own long-term security. This is particularly relevant as regards our relations with the countries of the Western Balkans. Today’s peace in the Western Balkans is perhaps not perfect, but it is precious.
We have to admit that we have disappointed and neglected many of these countries in the past years. This open flank is being exploited by actors like Russia, who have no interest in a European future of the Western Balkans and who are not afraid to fuel unresolved conflicts. I am traveling today to the Western Balkans, above all to listen to what the people there expect of us now – but also to demonstrate that we will not yield this region in the heart of Europe to Moscow’s influence.
In the past few days Europe has shown that it is capable of acting and that it is determined to counter the aggressive actions of the Russian President. Now we must show that we are ready to demonstrate the same spirit in our forward-looking involvement with the countries in the EU’s neighbourhood. The people in the region will judge us by whether our words are followed by actions. Germany has a fundamental interest in a politically stable and economically prosperous Western Balkans, whose countries are oriented towards Europe. That is what we will work towards, in the upcoming political talks and through strategic investments, above all in the field of renewable energy.
We also want someone who stands for this political priority, the Western Balkans. The German Government has therefore created a new post of Special Representative for these countries. I am delighted that Manuel Sarrazin has now been appointed to this key position. I know that he holds a special place in his heart for the Western Balkans and their European future. He will accompany me on this trip and will from now on intensify and nurture the direct contacts between the German Government and the countries and peoples of the region.
As one of Ukraine’s neighbours, the Republic of Moldova is one of the countries worst affected by the consequences of the Russian war of aggression. On this trip I will see for myself what the situation is like and will find out how we can do even more to help the Government in this exceptional situation. We will not permit the shockwaves set off by Russia to spread to more countries in Europe. Moldova can rely on the solidarity of Germany and Europe.