Serbia and other countries in the Western Balkans region are taking firm steps towards European Union membership, but the road is long, Germany's chancellor said Monday.
Speaking at a joint press conference with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic in the capital Belgrade on the first leg of a mini Balkan tour, Angela Merkel said the Berlin Process strengthened bonds between Western Balkan countries and aided their EU membership process but noted that changes need to be enacted.
"It is pleasing that Serbia is closely interested in judicial reforms. The Berlin Process increases the commitment in the region and aids the path to EU membership,” said Merkel.
However, "there is still a long way to go before Serbia and the whole region can finally become members of the European Union, as is our common goal," she added.
The Berlin Process, a diplomatic initiative linked to the future enlargement of the European Union, started with the 2014 Berlin Conference, which was followed by the 2015 Vienna Summit, the 2016 Paris Summit, the 2017 Trieste Summit, the 2018 London Summit and the 2019 Poznan Summit.
Merkel, who is set to retire this fall, said future chancellors will also work for the EU membership process of the Western Balkans, as it is one of Germany's goals to see the six Western Balkan states join the bloc.
"Not all EU countries have recognized the independence of Kosovo. All questions in the EU membership process should be answered, and this issue should be resolved. Personally, I am in favor of a utilitarian attitude. Questions will not end, and questions must be resolved,” said Merkel on the Serbia-Kosovo issue.
“I cannot speak for Serbia, but I know what is important for the EU. In Germany, It took a long time for the border and other problems to be resolved. We have to be understanding of the problems that need to be overcome."
Vucic also said that Merkel was a political authority during her tenure and Germany is Serbia's biggest foreign trade partner.
"Serbia is always open to reaching a solution. Serbia is a country that sees the future with peace," he said.
Merkel on Tuesday will travel to Tirana, where she will meet with Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama and afterward have lunch with the prime ministers of all six Western Balkans states -- Serbia, Kosovo, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and North Macedonia.