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Western Balkan security, stability vital for EU

Western Balkan countries deserve strong support as they move down their path to European Union membership, Germany’s top diplomat said on Monday, singling out the risks posed by Moscow to the region’s stability.

Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said the EU cannot afford what she called security “grey areas.”

“We cannot allow ourselves grey areas anywhere in Europe and must do everything we can together to close flanks that Russia can use for its policy of destabilization, disinformation and infiltration,” she said before leaving for Montenegro and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

“This includes supporting the countries of the Western Balkans in strengthening their democratic institutions, improving their resilience and offering people economic prospects,” added Baerbock.

Montenegro and Bosnia-Herzegovina, along with Albania, Serbia, North Macedonia and Kosovo, form the Western Balkans.

The European Union is urging the countries to pursue the reforms needed for integration with the 27-member political and economic bloc.

Brussels views Montenegro as being furthest along in the accession process, but the pace is slow.

Montenegro’s negotiations were launched in 2012. Even under the most ambitious scenarios the EU is not expected to admit new members by the end of the decade at the earliest.

In December 2022, Bosnia-Herzegovina was granted the status of EU candidate country, but negotiations have yet to begin.

“It has become a geopolitical necessity, especially in the face of Russia’s brutal imperialism, that we do everything we can to support the six states in the region on their way to joining the European Union,” Baerbock said.

“[As the EU, we have] the common task of making ourselves fit for the future while we place more chairs at the European table,” she said.

Baerbock is to hold talks in Montenegro’s capital Podgorica with Prime Minister Milojko Spajić, Foreign Minister Filip Ivanović and President Jakov Milatović.

Prime Minister Spajić and President Milatović have led Montenegro since 2023 and, like their predecessors, they are declared pro-Europeans. However, Spajić could only be elected with the support of small pro-Russian and pro-Serbian parties.

Later on Monday evening, in Sarajevo, Baerbock was set to meet with members of Bosnia’s tripartite presidency as well as Christian Schmidt, the international community’s high representative overseeing peace in Bosnia.

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