18th Oct 2018

Merkel moots 'privileged partnership' for Balkans

  • Angela Merkel - "the question of full membership should not be the next question at all" (Photo: CDU)

German chancellor Angela Merkel has suggested a "privileged partnership" for the western Balkan states as an option for closer ties with the EU, raising doubts over Berlin's commitment to full membership for the region.

Ms Merkel made her comments at a press conference after meeting Slovenian prime minister Janez Jansa in Berlin on Wednesday (15 March), DTT-NET.COM reports.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

Asked whether the western Balkans' "European perspective" could also mean something less than full membership, she said "from my side I would like to say that we should not avoid the term ‘privileged partnership’."

Ms Merkel's statement represents the first public statement by an EU leader of a loose partnership option for the region, an option that so far has only been mooted for states like Turkey and Ukraine.

It also came just days after member states struggled to find common wording for their aims towards the region after a meeting of foreign ministers last week.

In the end, the words "EU membership as ultimate goal" were only included after strong pressure from the Balkan states.

Ms Merkel said "I think the question of full membership should not be the next question at all, it is rather about political stabilisation, for which Europe should feel responsible."

"Political stabilisation can of course never mean 'never full membership', but (...) other steps are more important now," she added.

Wobbly message

But although Ms Merkel did not rule out eventual full membership, her use of the term "privileged partnership" is likely to cause concern in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro and Kosovo.

The term has been frequently used by Ms Merkel and other politicians for Turkey and Ukraine as an alternative to full accession.

For it part, the European Commission is urging member states to stay true to their Balkan commitments. EU enlargement commissioner Olli Rehn urged member states not to "go wobbly" on the goal of full EU membership for western Balkan states, just as the region enters a difficult period of talks on Kosovo’s future status.

EU leaders promised western Balkan countries that they "will become an integral part of the EU, once they meet the established criteria" at a meeting in Thessaloniki in 2003.

Berlin and Paris: deepening first

However, Germany has now joined France in saying that the union should first sort out its internal institutional problems before expanding further.

Ms Merkel said that "without a constitutional treaty, in which institutional reforms are also anchored, enlargement of the European Union is hardly imaginable."

The remark echoes similar statements from Paris.

Dominique de Villepin, the French prime minister, said in January that "Europe has no vocation to enlarge indefinitely."

"A balance has to be found between widening and deepening and now the priority lies with deepening," the French politician stated.

News in Brief

  1. Poland questions supremacy of EU court
  2. Medvedev to meet Juncker and Merkel in Brussels
  3. Italians and Czechs least favourable to remaining in EU
  4. Facebook hack set to be first major test of EU data rules
  5. Barnier open to extending Brexit transition period
  6. Juncker mulls rejection of Italy's 2019 budget
  7. German justice minister to lead SPD in European elections
  8. Tusk: May should come with new Brexit proposals


EU should brace for a more authoritarian Erdogan

The new blend of religious nationalism will be more anti-West and anti-EU, as Brussels has anything but leverage on Turkey. The first signs of this strong rhetoric are already visible.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  3. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  5. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  6. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  7. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  8. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  9. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  11. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  12. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All

Latest News

  1. MEPs demand more from EU on human rights in Asia
  2. EU migration solutions are on the table - let's adopt them
  3. No progress at Brexit summit, talks continue
  4. May faces EU leaders head-to-head as Brexit deal falters
  5. Nordic region's top bank in new Russia funds complaint
  6. Why 'Spitzenkandidat' is probably here to stay
  7. EU ministers struggle to deal with Poland and Hungary
  8. Commission tried to hide details of 'WiFi4EU' glitch

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us