German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in her final days in office, visited Serbia as part of a tour of the Balkans to support EU enlargement.
She urged the European Union to win the battle for influence in the region where Russia and China are also trying to gain clout.
“It is in the strategic interest of the European Union to integrate the Balkan states into the bloc,” Merkel said during her visit on Monday.
She said: “We Europeans, who are already members of the European Union, must always keep in mind that there is an absolute geostrategic interest for us to really accept these countries into the European Union and we see when you said that there are setbacks, that there is also the influence of many other parts of the world. “
Merkel urged Serbia to take “further steps towards the rule of law, democracy, the plurality of society and to find a negotiated solution with Kosovo”.
After Belgrade, Merkel traveled to Albania where she met the leaders of five other Western Balkan states aspiring to EU membership.
The western Balkan states – which include Serbia, Bosnia, North Macedonia, Albania, Montenegro and Kosovo – have sought EU membership for decades.
But due to the bloc’s stalled interest in enlargement and the years of diplomatic crises the EU faced when Britain left the bloc, these Balkan countries have been forced to seek other alliances. , especially with Russia and China.