Cause and Effect in European Politics and Law

Elections in Germany and Their Impact on the Western Balkans

Mimoza Ahmetaj, Former Minister of EU Integration of Kosovo, October 10, 2017

The elections in Germany confirmed the victory of the CDU-CSU coalition, albeit with less votes than in past elections. Obviously, the result will not undermine Germany's role in Europe and in the Balkans, neither Chancellor Angela Merkel's position. The Chancellor remains a significant figure that is largely supported by the German opinion. This has been proved by these elections and by major support she is enjoying within the CDU itself. 

Accepting a million of refugees from Syria, voting for homosexual marriage, early retirement of those who have sufficient work experience, financial aid to Greece of billions of euros to overcome the deep economic crisis, sanctions against Russia, support to Ukraine, condemnation of the Bashar al-Assad's regime in Syria, and the war against ISIS are just some of the measures taken by the German Chancellor during her previous mandates. All of these decisions are estimated as bold actions undertaken in the right time, despite the high political price. Though economically costly and unpopular, these decisions did not hamper Germany in reducing the unemployment rate and even boosting the GDP, while influencing European and world politics.

Germany will continue to be the axis for European and world policy in the next four years. The partnership between Merkel and Macron (Germany-France), as the two founding states of the EU, represents a message to EU citizens and beyond that the principles on which the Union is founded (liberté, égalité, fraternité) are not negotiable and present the vital foundations which the economy, free movement and all the other civil rights of Europe are based upon.

For Europe and beyond, at a time when the world is facing many challenges, beginning with the North Korea nuclear tests over the sky of Japan, to the immigration crisis, the conclusion of negotiations on Brexit, Crimea and Russia, Islamic radicalism, more sovereignty of national governments within EU, alternation of the Union Treaties, reforms of the Eurozone and the tax system, the ongoing exasperations in the Balkans are more or less the reasons why Europe and beyond need the binomial Merkel-Macron. First and foremost, they will be the driving engine for the whole of Europe, they are required to defend and preserve the integrity of the EU values, which have been challenged on several occasions after the Brexit referendum, and moreover to guarantee that enlargement and the inclusion of the Western Balkan countries is a bright perspective in the near future. 

The role of Germany in the Balkans, and Chancellor Merkel's in particular, continues to be crucial. Germany took under its supervision and facilitation the WB6 (Western Balkan 6) initiative, known also as a "the Berlin Process". This initiative is based on three principles: regional cooperation between governments (which remains the basic principle in the accession process), connectivity agenda regarding infrastructure and energy projects, and cooperation among youth and civil society. Meanwhile, Germany has presented another initiative, such as "the Marshall Plan for WB" or "Berlin+ Process", which will be a supplementary factor to the economic development of the countries in the region. The Transport Treaty should be considered an added value to the process of EU enlargement, which was facilitated by the EU but sponsored by Berlin, as well as the Agreement on Free Economic Area. Both are a supplementary factor in the integration process for the entire region of the Western Balkans.

The latest statement of President Juncker that “By 2025 Montenegro and Serbia could join the EU” was an announcement that caught by surprise many high officials in Brussels, and which means that the engine of the EU lies in Berlin and not really in Brussels. Germany continues to be very outspoken and decisive, and made it clear to the countries of the Western Balkans and their governments that there are basic conditions to be met, such as the rule of law, the fight against crime and corruption, good neighborly relations, fundamental human rights, freedom of expression and economic development, which will pave the way toward EU integration process. Beside that, each and every country is in a different stage of the EU accession process and has its own roadmap to follow. 

The technical issue, which was later transformed into a political obstacle, such as the border demarcation between Kosovo and Montenegro has kept Kosovo isolated for almost three years and still without a visa regime for its people in the Schengen area. The issue of border demarcation, the continuation of the dialogue with Serbia, the establishment of the association of Serbian municipalities, are a condition that should be fulfilled by the Kosovo institutions, and Berlin has made it already clear both to the ruling and opposition parties in Kosovo. Only after these conditions are met Kosovo will be able to apply for EU candidacy and later on to open the accession negotiations.

On the other hand, Serbia should be committed and constructive in the dialogue with Kosovo, so that it is concluded by a bilateral agreement and a recognition of Kosovo’s independence by Serbia. Both the Kosovo and Serbia paths toward the EU are linked and locked with each other through the dialogue and raprochment. 

Montenegro, as the youngest member state of the NATO, continues to be the most advanced country in the region in its negotiation process. Regarding opening accession negotiations with Albania, Germany has made it clear that soon after the election in Germany are over Albania will be able to open accession negotiations. This became possible after Albania demonstrated a determination and willingness to undertake judicial reforms and implement supervision. Germany has been a key factor also with Macedonia by expressing willingness to find a solution over the name issue with Greece. This would later pave the way for Macedonia toward EU negotiations and also NATO membership.  

Bosnia and Herzegovina has applied for a candidate status and once they reach an internal consensus and meet sufficiently the Copenhagen criteria it could be anticipated to continue with the integration process. 

For the most powerful woman in Europe and beyond, Chancellor Merkel, this mandate will certainly be very challenging and demanding so that Germany can remain a guarantor of peace, security, political stability and economic prosperity.

And last but not least, citizens of West Balkan countries have high expectations that Chancellor Merkel will continue to have enlargement on her agenda and will continue to support the region toward reconciliation, economic prosperity and EU integration. As it was very often said, “the EU is not complete without Balkans”.  

*Mimoza Ahmetaj served as Kosovo's European Integration Minister between February 2017 and September 2017. Her opinion does not represent the views of euinside

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