EU must support Western Balkans membership to secure peace – Scholz

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BERLIN, March 23 (Reuters) – The European Union must support the Western Balkan countries in their bid to join the bloc as soon as possible as part of its strategy to secure regional peace, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Wednesday.

“In the European Council, determined as never before, we will agree tomorrow and the day after a new European security strategy,” Scholz told the Bundestag lower house of parliament.

Scholz said Europe needed to strengthen its crisis resilience regarding economic policy but also new technologies and cyberspace, as well as support Western Balkan countries in their EU membership bids.

Many in the Balkans doubt the EU’s pledge, first made 18 years ago, to eventually admit Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Kosovo and Albania to the bloc.

He added that  Europe will end its energy dependence on Russia but to do so from one day to the next would plunge it into a recession, risking hundreds of thousands of jobs and entire industrial sectors.

“Sanctions should not hurt European states harder than the Russian leadership,” Scholz told the Bundestag lower house of parliament.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz delivers a speech during a session of the German Parliament (Bundestag) in Berlin, Germany, 23 March 2022. Among other topics, MPs are expected to discuss the budget of the German chancellor and the chancellery. EPA-EFE/CLEMENS BILAN

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