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Balkan states urged to resolve differences to join EU

April 12, 2019
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Foreign Ministers and officials of the Berlin Process, left to right; front row, North Macedonia's Nikola Dimitrow, Bosnia and Herzegovina's Igor Crnadak, Kosovo's Behgjet Pacolli, Germany's Heiko Maas, Poland's Jacek Czaputowicz, President Andrzej Duda, Krzysztof Szczerski, Szymon Szynkowski vel Sek, Bulgaria's Ekaterina Zaharieva, Montenegro's Srdjan Darmanovic and Albania's Gent Cakaj. Second row (L-R) France's Pierre Levy, EC Christian Danielsson, Austria's Andreas Riecken, Slovenia's Simona Leskovar, Italy's Emanuela Del Re, Croatia's Andreja Metelko Zgombic, EEAS Helga Schmid, RYCO Duro Blanusa, Greece's Evangelos Tsaoussis, Great Britain's Andrew Page and Serbia's Dejan Ralevic pose for a group photo prior to talks in Warsaw, Poland, Thursday, April 11, 2019. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Countries in the western Balkans aspiring to join the European Union, such as Serbia and Kosovo, should be given a clear pathway to membership provided they solve their differences, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Friday.

At a conference of foreign ministers of the so-called Berlin Process, which brings together those aspiring states and some EU members, Maas said it was “very important to offer the countries in that region a clear perspective of membership.” provided any differences including any lingering from the wars of the 1990s are resolved.

The meeting in Warsaw was held in preparation for a summit on EU enlargement scheduled in Poland in July.

“Our hand remains extended and that means that offering a European perspective to western Balkans is meant not only as a promise to the countries in the region, but it is also in the interest of the European Union,” Maas told a news conference later.

The Berlin Process, initiated by Germany, is a platform for bringing closer to the EU the aspiring states: Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Kosovo, North Macedonia and Serbia.

On an invitation from German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron, Berlin is also to host a meeting of western Balkan and EU high representatives April 29.

Maas encouraged western Balkan nations to find solutions to difficult issues in the region and pointed to the example of North Macedonia, which recently changed its name to settle a conflict with Greece, as a case of “good will that brings success.”

He said those who do not seek reconciliation with neighbors will remain stuck in their past, also in the area of economy and social welfare.

Internal conflicts in the Balkans and a split between those supporting ties with the EU and those opting for Russian links have stalled the EU enlargement process.

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