The heads of state and government of the EU countries are discussing further rapprochement with the Western Balkan countries in Brussels. EU Council President Charles Michel campaigned on Thursday to “get the process going again” after years of deadlock. Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) advocated a clear EU perspective for North Macedonia and the five other countries. It is “of the utmost importance that this is now a credible promise,” said Scholz.

“Germany will support the activities of the western Balkan states on their way to the European Union,” said Scholz in Brussels. “We feel responsible for ensuring that these countries are successful in their efforts.” The chancellor emphasized that they were promised an EU perspective as early as 2003, almost 20 years ago.

Serbia, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Albania, Montenegro and Bosnia-Herzegovina are taking part in the Western Balkans Summit. It precedes the actual EU summit, which will discuss the accession prospects of Ukraine and Moldova on Thursday afternoon.

Albania warned the Ukrainians against entertaining “illusions” about their EU prospects and sharply criticized the deadlock on their own accession negotiations. President Edi Rama called it “a disgrace that a NATO country – Bulgaria – is taking two other countries, Albania and North Macedonia, hostage in a hot war”. He accused the other EU countries of “impotence”. EU member Bulgaria is demanding concessions from North Macedonia to the Bulgarian minority.

Because of the government crisis in Bulgaria, no progress is expected at the summit. The pro-European Prime Minister Kiril Petkov was overthrown by a vote of no confidence on Wednesday.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, whose country has been a candidate for accession for ten years, expressed skepticism about progress. He expects “nothing” from the meeting, he said in Brussels. “We believe in a European future for Serbia and the region (…), but we have to respect ourselves in doing so,” he said. Vucic, together with Albania and North Macedonia, had threatened to boycott the summit, but then traveled anyway.

Vucic rejected criticism of Serbia’s refusal to participate in the EU sanctions against Russia. The recognition of Kosovo demanded by Scholz is also not an issue for Serbia, he emphasized.

In Brussels, Kosovan President Vjosa Osmani called for the accession process to be speeded up and for her country to end the visa requirement for the Schengen area. “Kosovo has met all the criteria for four years,” said Osmani. “It is time for the Member States to support the process because it means a great injustice to the people of Kosovo,” she stressed.