Merkel breaks off dealing with Greece to visit Balkans

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By Catherine Hardy  with Reuters, APTN, AFP
Merkel breaks off dealing with Greece to visit Balkans

Angela Merkel is in the Western Balkans, on the first leg of a tour that will also take the German Chancellor to Serbia and Bosnia.

The countries of the Western Balkans have a european future

Her visit sends a signal that the region’s stability is crucial to the EU. Balkan nations are likely to suffer the spillover effects from the Greek debt crisis and there are fears that the progress towards EU membership could falter.

“It is in our own interests that we put our promise into practice,” Mrs Merkel told reporters in Albania, “namely that the countries of the Western Balkans have a European future. This is directly linked to our credibility.”

Along with Albania, Serbia has EU candidate status but has yet to start accession talks Angela Merkel congratulated her counterpart Aleksander Vucic on his strict management of the economy:

“We chose the tough measures because it is the best way to get good results.” the Prime MInister said, “Greece is our friend, but the economic measures and the economic path that we have chosen is different.”

Mrs Merkel also promised the EU will intensify cooperation with Western Balkan countries to help them stem the influx of illegal migrants from the Middle East and Africa.

They are using Serbia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia as transit countries before crossing to Hungary and the rest of western Europe in the EU.