From: Alice Taylor
German Chancellor Angela Merkel to Meet Western Balkan Leaders in Albania Today

Outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel is visiting Tirana today, following yesterday’s visit to Serbia. 

Her arrival in Tirana prompted traffic chaos as police blocked many arterial roads due to security measures. The following segments will be partially blocked today: Rinas-Unaza Re, Rruga Elbasanit, and parts of Sauk. The disruption will continue between 9 am-1 pm.

First on the agenda is a welcoming ceremony that will take place at the Palace of Brigades. At 10:30, Merkel will meet with Prime Minister Edi Rama. Then at 11:55, Merkel will meet the Prime Minister of other Western Balkan countries at Tirana Business Park.

Rama and Merkel will hold a press conference at approximately 14:35.

During yesterday’s visit to Serbia, Merkel stated that it’s one of Germany’s goals to see the Western Balkan Six enter the European Union. She added, however, that the countries have “a long way to go” before this becomes a reality. The comments were made during a press conference with President Aleksandar Vucic.

Most notably, it appears that Albania and North Macedonia are no closer to their goal following a June 2021 decision from the General Affairs Council of the EU not to open accession talks with the two countries.

Aside from discussing accession issues, other topics on the table will include political and economic cooperation. 

After 16 years at the helm of one of Europe’s largest states, Merkel will retire after the German elections that are set to take place on September 27. Her visit to the Balkans comes a few weeks before the upcoming EU-Balkans summit in October.

Her visit sends a signal to the region, where hopes of EU integration are floundering, that the Western Balkans is still of key importance to both Germany and the EU.

Prime Minister of Kosovo Albin Kurti confirmed that he will be meeting with Western Balkan leaders and Merkel in Tirana today. This meeting will be of particular importance considering the climate of stalling normalization dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo and tensions following the somewhat controversial Open Balkan initiative between North Macedonia, Albania, and Serbia.