Merkel: Reform speed decides timing of EU accession

BERLIN -- Angela Merkel says all countries in the region have EU prospects, but that the accession will depend on how quickly they implement vital reforms.

(Beta/AP, file)
(Beta/AP, file)

The German chancellor spoke ahead of the Conference of Western Balkan States, to be organized by the German government on Thursday in Berlin.

In an interview with political analyst Cornelius Adebahr ahead of the conference, Merkel said that the German government decided to organize a gathering at the highest level, inviting the prime ministers and ministers of foreign affairs and economy of the Western Balkans, in order to mark the centenary of the outbreak of World War I.

"We thought about a way to mark the centenary by not just looking back on the past, but looking towards the future instead. The government had an idea to invite all countries in the region and show that the conflicts are over and that, despite all the differences, there is unity in its core. I believe that the EU prospects of all those countries have made this possible," Merkel said in the video posted on the German government's website.

This means that all Western Balkan countries have the chance to join the EU, and that is the goal which they all pursue together, she stressed.

"We still remember the horrible wars, and this conference is here to show that we are moving on, that we have overcome the conflicts, and that is a good sign. We have promised EU membership to all countries in the Western Balkans, and we stand firmly behind this promise," she said.

Merkel dismissed the claims of EU's double standards regarding the entry of new members, pointing out that the accession procedure could be seen clearly from the example of Croatia, and that reports are constantly made on the rule of law and the progress in terms of democratization and the fight against corruption in Romania and Bulgaria.

"It is clear that more time is needed in the Balkans," she said, noting that the international community is still present in Kosovo with its troops and the European police mission.

The countries must not be left to their own devices too soon, added Merkel.

"We have invited the prime ministers and government members in order to improve their mutual cooperation. People want good roads, to be able to travel easily from one country to another… Change is only possible through movement, and that is something that we have seen during the Cold War in Europe, and we can apply this experience to all parts of the world," said Merkel.