Europe will only be truly united when all the countries of the Western Balkans join the EU, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Monday.
Merkel’s remarks represented a strong restatement of Berlin’s commitment to EU enlargement, an idea that is unpopular with some EU governments and many voters in Western Europe. French President Emmanuel Macron has struck a particularly skeptical note on enlargement in recent years.
Merkel was speaking at an event in Hungary to mark the 30th anniversary of the “pan-European picnic” — an event regarded as a key moment in the fall of the Iron Curtain and in bringing Western and Eastern Europe together.
But the chancellor said European unity would not be complete until the entire Western Balkans joins the EU.
“If you look at things geostrategically and also look at the map then there will only be a truly united Europe with the states of the Western Balkans,” Merkel told reporters in the Hungarian town of Sopron.
Six Western Balkan states are not EU members. Serbia, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Albania are official candidate countries for EU membership, while Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo are classed as “potential candidates.”
Both Serbia and Montenegro have been engaged in membership talks for years. EU ministers decided in June to delay a decision on whether to start membership talks with North Macedonia and Albania until at least October, mainly due to resistance from France and the Netherlands.