“The rule of law without political discounts”

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The EU is just overwhelmed, but must not let the Western Balkans and Bulgaria from the eye, says Michael Roth, Minister of state at the Federal foreign office, in a DW interview.

Deutsche Welle: Mr. Minister of state Roth during his visit in Bulgaria (4. and 5. April) has mentioned the Federal President on several occasions the commitment of Bulgaria to the Western Balkans. They are also of the opinion that the accession of the Western Balkans to the EU is as a subject submerged? It takes back more Power in this thing?

Michael Roth: I have the impression that the strategic interest of the EU and many EU member States has eased in the Western Balkans. This is problematic, and that worries me, because we can only live in the EU, safe and stable, if we do more for security, for stability and for regional reconciliation in the Western Balkans. The more I am glad that there are partners in the EU, which have recognized the strategic importance of the Western Balkans for all of us.

And what can today be done in this respect?

It is important that we increase the visibility of the EU, that is clear: we the people of the Western Balkans not in the lurch, especially because of the process of transformation, the path to the EU, so arduous, so difficult for the people. We have just seen in the case of young people who leave their home and come to Germany, because they see for themselves in the Western Balkans, no perspective. In addition, we must also advertise what it is in the EU. The EU is primarily a single market, an economic project, but above all a community of values. And democracy, the rule of law, respect for minorities, the fight against corruption have to be for us a great interest. And there can be no political discounts.

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During its presidency of the EU, Bulgaria has declared the accession of the Western Balkans to the main topic. Today is a different country from the Region, the EU-presidency: Romania. You have an impression of whether Romania is also engaged as strongly with the Western Balkans?

The Western Balkans should enjoy for all the presidencies of the Council a major priority and on the top of the agenda will be settled. As I wish all of you a great commitment, not least from Germany, from our EU presidency next year. Of course, at the moment, we are very captured by other topics. That is, for example, of Brexit, which costs a lot of energy and time. We currently have the negotiations on the financial framework. And the more important it is that we let the Western Balkans do not fall down.

You mentioned the young people in the Region. During his visit in Bulgaria has also been the President of the Confederation dealing with the issue, particularly with the question of vocational training and the dual education – two “instruments” with which one could make the young people comfortable in their home is a good perspective.

It is first important that we keep Bulgaria at all, in the eye, because the country is caught up in the last few months, a bit out of the view. We have several messages. Democracy, corruption and the rule of law are what keeps us Europeans together, we want from each other and learning together. And Germany is of course willing to do in the case of the dual training. And if the conditions are right, are German companies willing to invest in Bulgaria and on the Balkans, to create jobs. It is not only a question of infrastructure, it is also a question of the rule of law. In the talks in Bulgaria was also significant.

The interview was conducted by Alexander Andreev

Michael Roth (SPD) is a member of the German Bundestag and Minister of state for Europe at the Federal foreign office. He is also Commissioner for Franco-German cooperation.