German diplomat: ″The Berlin Process for the Western Balkans should not be duplicated″ | European | News and current affairs from across the continent | DW

DW: Ambassador Schütz, how do you assess the current situation in the Western Balkan region on the eve of the summit within the framework of the ongoing Berlin process, which will take place next month, on November 3 in Berlin?

Susanne Schutz: We are all aware in Germany and Europe, but also in the Western Balkans, that the world is not the same after February 24. The fact that Russia is waging a war of aggression against Ukraine has increased the feeling of insecurity also in the Western Balkans. We are also aware that everywhere in Europe, but also in particular in this region, we will face additional economic challenges. We are therefore very happy that, in the context of this war, the EU together with its partners in the Western Balkans have shown great unity in condemning the war; and I must say that we very much welcome the fact that Albania, together with Kosovo, Montenegro and North Macedonia, have been very clear in their positions and comply 100% with the EU sanctions against Russia and Belarus. We are very happy that on July 19, Albania and North Macedonia started EU accession talks. This is really a milestone on their way to becoming EU members. It was also an important signal to the rest of the region that the EU enlargement process is still alive and that the promise that was made to all six Western Balkan states to become EU members is a reality.

Western Balkan leader meets at Brdo Brioni summit in Slovenia, 12.09.2022

With regard to the Berlin Process, we very much welcome that Chancellor Scholz has taken this initiative and invited to a Berlin Process Summit in Berlin at the beginning of November. And we are very happy that after two years in which the Berlin process took place only in virtual formats, this year, for the first time, there will again be face-to-face meetings of ministers: ministers of foreign affairs, economy and interior . On the agenda will be the continuation of the initiatives that were part of the Berlin process from the very beginning: the agenda of connectivity, in particular the connectivity of people, young people and civil society. But there will also be new initiatives like energy security and solidarity as well as the green agenda.

A very important subject, which occupies a very important place on the agenda of the Berlin process, is the implementation of the regional common market. The MRC had already been decided at the Sofia summit in 2020, but the signing of four agreements had so far been delayed due to disagreements between Kosovo and Serbia. We are working very hard to overcome the remaining differences in order to make the regional common market applicable to all inhabitants of the region. We are convinced that it will be very beneficial for everyone if travel with ID cards, recognition of professional diplomas and also academic qualifications are accepted by all WEB6.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel seen on a screen between North Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev (left) and Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov.” alt=”Summit meeting in the Bulgarian capital Sofia in November 2020 with German Chancellor Angela Merkel seen on a screen between North Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev (left) and Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov.”/>

Summit meeting in the Bulgarian capital Sofia in November 2020 with German Chancellor Angela Merkel

On 13 October, the European Council working groups on visa liberalization for Kosovo met in Brussels. What is Berlin’s position on this subject?

Germany is very supportive. Visa liberalization for Kosovo is even in our government’s coalition agreement and we expect there will now be support from countries like France. We hope that by the end of the year all EU Member States will receive the political green light to move forward with visa liberalization for Kosovo and that it will only be practical implementation in the field. We want to see that promise delivered now to all citizens of Kosovo.

In addition to the Berlin Process, there is also the Open Balkans initiative, which tries to implement the Berlin Process on a daily basis. Do you think that by implementing these two initiatives, the results would be faster or do you think that the Western Balkan countries need a unified regional cooperation mechanism?

The Berlin process was designed to be a platform for the six Western Balkan states and to serve as a catalyst for faster European integration, of course also for regional integration. We believe that inclusiveness, having all six on board, is very important. So far, the opening of the Balkans is a three-way initiative, and we maintain that the inclusiveness of the process is important; there should be no duplication, rather there should be working hand in hand. It is also very important that all agreements being finalized in the framework of the Open Balkans are in line with the EU acquis, otherwise it would be more difficult to realign later with EU standards and regulations.

James R. Rhodes