The Western Balkans was on the agenda of the EU General Affairs Council in Brussels. Although most of the debate of the heads of diplomacy of the 27 EU countries focused on the crisis created on the border between Belarus and Poland, current developments in the Western Balkans, especially in Bosnia and Herzegovina, were assessed by participants as extremely worrying.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas considers developments in the Western Balkans "one of the most difficult in all post-war history", he said after a ministerial meeting in Brussels on Monday. He said that these developments should not be ignored, especially given the recent tensions in northern Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
"We have to think about how to act more harshly against those who question state structures, who incite people with hatred and who want to break ties with the European Union," the incumbent German minister said in Brussels on Monday, after meeting with his EU colleagues. He added: "We should also talk about the possibility of sanctions to stop such developments."
The debate on the Western Balkans, which took place in Brussels on Monday, was aimed at exchanging views among members. In a letter that served as the basis for the debate, which is also part of DW, the political situation in the Western Balkans was described as "increasingly challenging". The report specifically mentioned the deepening crisis in Bosnia and Herzegovina, tensions in northern Kosovo, and cross-party tensions in Montenegro.
"Public opinion support for EU integration is declining, giving way to exclusionary nationalist rhetoric and identity policies," the report said.
German Minister Heiko Maas once again spoke about the opening of membership negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia. "The European Union must prove that it is credible," said the incumbent minister, "and start government conferences with Albania and North Macedonia, because this too can have a stabilizing effect on the entire region."
Both Maas and EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell have confirmed that almost all countries support holding government conferences. Enlargement Commissioner Oliver Varheley, who was also present at the meeting, said Monday morning that he hoped for more progress after the elections in Bulgaria and North Macedonia. Bulgaria is the only country that continues to hold hostage the start of EU membership negotiations with North Macedonia, and consequently with Albania.