German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and his Austrian counterpart Karl Nehammer emphasised the need to accelerate membership negotiations of Western Balkan countries amid looming threats from Russia in a press briefing, write exit.al platform
Talking about the repercussions of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the two leaders drew attention to the importance of finding allies for cooperative European politics worldwide – but also in Europe. “That the Western Balkans belong to Europe. That must now also be lived,” said Nehammer.
“We are called upon to ensure that we strengthen and support the region in our neighbourhood as a whole,” Scholz stated.
“This includes a clear European perspective for the countries of the Western Balkans”, he added.
Accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia should also be started as soon as possible. “Any further delay makes the Western Balkans vulnerable and open to the influence of third parties,” he said.
As the war in Ukraine continues to escalate, EU membership negotiations have become crucial for Ukraine, but also for neighbouring regions that might be impacted by the invasion.
Such influence is clearly expected to come from Russia, but also from China, according to Nehammer, which is why it is of “geostrategic interest” to “get off the ground quickly and actually offer the people in these countries a fruitful perspective.”
The strategy that Austria and Germany want to pursue is to mobilise for broader approval of the countries’ membership. “From my point of view, it also looks as if the current situation, in particular, has once again massively increased the willingness for everyone to work together here,” said Scholz.