German Minister: EU shoots itself in the foot in Western Balkans

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German Ministry of State for Europe Michael Roth said that the European Union would shoot itself in the foot in the Western Balkans if it left a vacuum in the region that other countries could fulfil, Deutsche Welle, reported on Friday.

„If the EU leaves a vacuum in the Western Balkans, then other countries which don’t share the Union’s democratic values will enter that vacuum for their strategic reasons. We will shoot in our foot,“ Roth warned.

He did not specify which countries he had in mind, but the Handelsblatt newspaper he talked to, said those were Russia, China and Turkey.

Roth said he was disappointed with the lack of progress in the Western Balkans’ integration into the bloc during Germany’s six-month presidency which ended on Thursday.

„We urgently need positive signals for the Western Balkans. Nothing, but our credibility, is at stake,“ he warned.

Roth added he hoped that during the Portuguese presidency which started on Friday, progress would be made.

„We have to push it, because peace, regional reconciliation and democracy in the Western Balkans are of crucial, strategic importance for the whole of Europe, particularly for the immediate neighbourhood,“ Roth said.

According to him, in the world, where authoritarianism is on the rise, and democracy is under ever-growing pressure, the EU hesitation is seen as a weakness.

However, Roth recalled the EU help Serbia and its neighbouring countries with 3.3 billion Euro in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic; planned a nine billion Euro investment package, and added the bloc would show solidarity anti-coronavirus vaccine.

Still, he believes the EU must do more to make that support visible.

„The EU must be more perceived emotionally by the people. Not because we want a pat on the back, but because Europe’s presence in systematic competition with the authoritarian regimes which will otherwise cast anchor in the middle of Europe, is needed “ Roth said.