Despite the differences between the allies, German diplomacy shows great interest in the Balkans

Selim IbraimiGerman Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock visited Sarajevo and Podgorica. During the meetings with senior officials of both governments, she emphasized the need for the acceleration of internal reforms, as well as the security and membership of the states in the EU. She viewed these as necessities against the threats of the time. After the US and Great Britain, Germany is the other main and decisive country for the fate of the Balkans, particularly Bosnia and Kosovo. The people of the Balkans have seen post-World War II Germany as a country they can turn to for economic aid and support in resolving interstate disputes. Despite some reactions, the German interventions have been viewed favorably by the Balkan governments due to the high level of credibility enjoyed by the Germans compared to other Western diplomats.

Historically, Germany’s involvement in the Balkans began after the Congress of Berlin in 1878, marking an interest in the then-German policy towards the Balkans, which was being liberated from the Ottoman Empire. After undergoing internal military and economic empowerment, the Germany of former chancellor Otto von Bismarck was preparing to take on new and greater responsibilities in the Balkans, simultaneously supporting political-economic ambitions with military intervention. Therefore, Germany’s presence in the Balkans has been active for the past three decades. The roots of German influence, however, can be traced back to the end of the 19th century, when geopolitical competition between European powers and Russia increased in the Balkans. Given Germany’s political and economic interests and the desire to expand trade in Southeast Europe, official Berlin undoubtedly built strong ties that went beyond ordinary diplomatic relations through economic cooperation with the Balkan states.

The German approach was especially felt after 1990 when German foreign policy underwent significant changes, focusing on diplomatic mediation and economic support in the Balkan region. Chancellors and German government ministers have visited the region since the fall of the former Yugoslavia. Billions of euros have been poured into the budgets of Balkan governments to improve national economies. The Berlin Process, the Common Economic Market, and many other projects bear the stamp of German diplomacy. German diplomatic actions demonstrate seriousness and a long-term commitment to the region.

Germany has taken concrete steps to integrate the peoples of the Balkans into the EU. The implementation of new immigration and labor laws has almost made the much faster integration of active and vital residents heading for Germany possible. For decades, Germany has shown a genuine interest in fostering real economic growth in the Balkans, undertaking regional initiatives such as providing 6 billion euros of aid over several years for the economies of the region. German economic and political diplomacy has yielded extraordinary results in the Balkans, making it indisputable that the recent visit of the German minister, Annalena Baerbock, was initiated based on Germany’s historical experience in Southeastern Europe.

The German minister’s messages in Podgorica and Sarajevo were clear. She emphasized the need to avoid gray areas and made several important statements that warrant repetition: “No gray area should be tolerated in Europe”; “Together we must do everything to protect ourselves from the Russian policy of destabilization, disinformation, and subversion”; “Balkan countries should be helped to strengthen their democratic institutions, improve their stability, and offer people economic perspectives”; “Taking the six states of the region under our wing on their way to the EU is a geopolitical necessity in light of Russia’s imperialism”; “The accession of the Balkan states to the EU is a ‘geopolitical necessity’ that will make Europe stronger in the face of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.”

In the end, one thing remains unclear: France and Great Britain will challenge the German initiatives. The latest reports leaked and published in European media show a great distrust of the British towards German policy concerning Ukraine. At the same time, Berlin officials have many reservations about the aid that should be offered to Kyiv. Historically, when European powers have not agreed on strategy, the failures have had consequences for the Europeans themselves, with neighboring countries being no exception.

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