Kanzlerin Merkels Abschiedstour auf dem Westbalkan

13 Sep. 2021 18:31 Uhr

Chancellor Angela Merkel left today on a farewell trip to Serbia and Albania. The CDU politician will be in the Western Balkans until Tuesday and will meet with representatives from several countries in the region on Tuesday in Tirana.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić thinks very highly of the German Chancellor. Because of Angela Merkel, he says he started learning German. After all, the whole of Europe is listening to the words of the powerful German head of government, said Vučić in a video that was published on Instagram late last year. It is not known whether he will prove his newly acquired knowledge of German at today’s meeting with her in Belgrade. But one thing is already clear: with the end of the Merkel era in Germany, the Serbian head of state will lose a great advocate in the EU.

Merkel's distorted view of the Western Balkans: fear of the influence of Beijing and Moscow

She always referred to him as a “stability factor” in the Balkans and sometimes invited him to the German Chancellery during the election campaign in his own country. This was then presented to the people via state media in Serbia as if the doors of the powerful in the EU were only open to them. Merkel ignored the spread of nepotism in the country. The opposition’s allegations that his party had the largest media under its control became secondary to the EU, and judicial independence was not a big issue. The stability and German interests in the region had priority.

Economic cooperation between Serbia and Germany has picked up speed in recent years. Numerous German companies – whether tire manufacturer Continental, hosiery manufacturer Falke or auto supplier Leonie – have settled in the Balkans. According to Marko Čadež, President of the Serbian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, there have been “more than two billion euros in German investments in all areas of the economy” in Serbia since 2014.

Critics of the Serbian President see this as the “carrot and stick” method. Through cooperation, concessions should be wrested from Serbia – such as the recognition of the independence of the breakaway Serbian province of Kosovo. According to the Serbian opposition politician Mlađan Đorđević, Merkel’s legacy in the Balkans is “corrupt authoritarian regimes”, many of which have ties to the Mafia. She supported Kosovo’s independence and secured NATO’s presence in the region. The pro-NATO forces in the country are unlikely to be entirely satisfied, because Belgrade had not broken with Moscow, but operated a kind of rocking policy.

After the meeting in Belgrade, the German Chancellor will travel to Albania. On Tuesday she spoke to the Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama in Tirana. The Chancellor will also have lunch in Tirana with the heads of government of Serbia, Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Kosovo. According to the federal government, the focus is on “questions of regional cooperation”.

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According to a report from the news agency dpa, who cites German diplomats in the region, Merkel wants to take more care of the Western Balkan states at the end of her term of office, maybe even hammer a few pegs for the subsequent German government.

All six countries have, it is said, an EU accession perspective, but have not come very far in the process of rapprochement so far. Membership in the EU is a long way off, Brussels and thus Berlin have to fight more and more for influence with other actors such as Russia, China or Turkey.

It remains to be seen whether anything will change in the Balkans after the Merkel era. Because of today’s high-profile visitor from Berlin, German flags were hoisted on the largest buildings in the city in Belgrade. According to the Serbian politician Đorđević, this is tasteless and testifies to Vučić’s subservience.

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