Roth: The strategic interest for the Western Balkans is lessened

Roth: The strategic interest for the Western Balkans is lessened
 Michael Roth

 The EU is actually overloaded but should not forget the Western Balkans, says Michael Roth in an interview to Deutsche Wellen - Secretary of State at the German Foreign Ministry.

Roth was part of the delegation accompanying the German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier on his visit on April 4-5 in Bulgaria.

Deutsche Welle: Mr. Roth during his visit to Bulgaria, the German president mentioned several times Bulgaria's commitment to the Western Balkans. Do you think that the rapprochement of the Western Balkans with the EU has lost its dynamics as a topic? Do we need a new impetus?

Michael Roth: I have the impression, as before, that the EU's strategic interest and many member states for the Western Balkans have fallen. This is problematic and is disturbing me because we as the EU can live safely and in stability unless we can do more for regional stability and reconciliation in the Western Balkans. Therefore, I am delighted to see that there are partners in the EU who have understood the strategic importance of the Western Balkans.

What can be done in this regard?

Michael Roth: It is important to increase the EU presence in order to make it clear that we do not forget people in the Western Balkans, because the process of transformation, the road to the EU is so laborious, so hard for the people there. This is what we are now experiencing in young people who want to leave the country and who come to Germany because they no longer see their perspective in their country. In addition, we need to make clear what it is about talking about the EU. The EU is not primarily an internal market, an economic project, but above all a set of values. Democracy, rule of law, respect for minorities are of primary importance to us. And for this there should be no political dispute.

During the EU presidency, Bulgaria was focused in the rapprochement with the EU. Do you think that Romania, the next president, is also engaging in the Balkans so much?

Michael Roth: The Western Balkans must be a priority for all the next presidencies. A great commitment from all of us, not just from Germany, our next presidency is next year. Of course we are now blocked from other topics. Such as Brexit, which costs a lot of energy and time. There are also negotiations on the budget. Therefore, it is all the more important that at this moment we should not miss the topic of the Western Balkans.

You mentioned the youth in the region. During his visit to Bulgaria, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier was intensively involved with this subject, with vocational education and the dual education system, two instruments that could open up prospects for young people to stay in the country.

Micheal Roth: First of all we must bear in mind that we should not forget Bulgaria, that this country has been somewhat distracted in recent months. We have several messages: Democracy, fighting corruption, the rule of law are what, as Europeans, keep us together. Germany is willing to do more in terms of dual professional education. And if the conditions are met, German firms are also willing to invest in Bulgaria and the Balkans to create jobs. But this is not just an issue of infrastructure, but also of the rule of law. This is also clear in the talks in Bulgaria.
Roth: The strategic interest for the Western Balkans is lessened Roth: The strategic interest for the Western Balkans is lessened Sunday, April 07, 2019 Rating: 5
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