EU-Western Balkans Summit
European prospects for the Western Balkan states
"All these countries have clear prospects of accession to the European Union," said the Chancellor at the end of the EU-Western Balkans Summit in Sofia. Before accession, however, some reforms are still needed, regarding the rule of law to give one example.
Any EU enlargement in the region, said Angela Merkel, must be "rules-based". "Conditions must be met". The following are the most important questions: "What has been achieved? To what extent is the rule of law in place? To what extent is corruption being addressed? What are the other framework conditions? To what extent, for instance, have border disputes been resolved?"
The Western Balkan states are Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Kosovo. Since February 2018 the European Commission has had a new "Western Balkans Strategy". The Commission has also announced a large number of EU initiatives to support this process, covering, for instance, the rule of law, migration and security, and reconciliation in the Western Balkans.
EU investing in local economy
Angela Merkel urged steps to swiftly develop the infrastructure in the region, including transport links. "We know from our own experience that when people meet, tensions lessen. That is why we believe that rapid progress should be made here." Special attention should be paid to developing digital communication pathways. "We have decided to cooperate more closely on all aspects of digitalisation and artificial intelligence."
Enhancing EU’s innovative capacities
In the field of digitalisation, "there is a lot of ground to make up compared to the leading countries in the world," said Angela Merkel. This is why cooperation in the area of research is to be stepped up. Above all, we want to introduce new methods, in particular to address what are termed disruptive innovations. Germany and France have produced a joint proposal here, that was very well received by other participants.
Iran nuclear deal to be upheld
All EU member states stand by the nuclear agreement with Iran, in spite of the fact that the USA has decided to withdraw. "In this light we will obviously continue talks with the United States, but also with our other partners under the agreement," announced Angela Merkel.
EU position on US tariffs established
The Chancellor explained the EU’s common approach. "We have made it plain that we want to see an unlimited exemption from these tariffs." The EU is also willing to discuss some points: reciprocal market access for industrial goods and bidding for public contracts, closer cooperation on liquid petroleum gas (LPG) and establishing a common EU-USA position on the reform of the World Trade Organization.
These points will now be communicated via the European Commission to the ministers of trade of member countries, who will meet again on 22 May. "I think that the political framework is thus clear for the talks that European Commissioner Cecilia Malmström can then conduct with the American side," said Angela Merkel.