The German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, is embarking on a journey to Tirana, the capital of Albania, on Monday. He is slated to participate in a summit of Western Balkan countries, alongside European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and other leaders, with the objective of charting a path towards membership for the six countries in the region.
The two leaders are due to hold talks with the heads of states and governments of Balkan countries including Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia.
It is not yet clear, however, whether Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic will join.
The summit comes under the auspices of the Berlin Process, launched in 2014 to advance the Western Balkan states’ accession to the EU. The process was initiated by Angela Merkel when she was German chancellor but it is the first time the summit has taken place in the region itself.
The 2003 European Council summit in the Greek city of Thessaloniki set the integration of the Western Balkans as a priority of EU expansion.
“It is quite clear that 20 years after the accession of these countries was promised, it must also happen soon,” Scholz said on Monday in the Albanian capital Tirana.
Scholz has previously made repeated speeches calling for the process to be accelerated.
“Our doors are open,” said von der Leyen, adding: “More needs to be done.”
The leaders will be joined by European Council President Charles Michel and French President Emmanuel Macron.
The first Western Balkan countries to launch negotiations for accession were Serbia and Montenegro a few years ago.
They were followed by Albania and Macedonia last year, while Bosnia and Kosovo have only just embarked on the first step of the integration process.
Brussels is trying to reinvigorate the whole EU enlargement process, which has been stalled since 2013, when the last country to become a member was Croatia.
Russia’s war in Ukraine has refocused efforts to integrate the Western Balkans into the 27-member bloc.