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Merkel campaigns for regional stability in Croatia, Serbia

During a visit to Croatia, German Chancellor Angela Merkel praised the country as an economic and political role model for nations in the politically troubled Balkan region. On Tuesday, she continues her tour in Serbia.

Merkel with Croatian PM Jadranka Kosor

Merkel views Croatia as a role model for the region

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has praised Croatia as a role model for the politically troubled Balkan region and called on Zagreb to play a larger role in helping to resolve the ongoing border dispute between Serbia and Kosovo and ethnic tensions in Bosnia.

In her visit to the country Monday, Merkel said Croatia's planned accession to the EU, scheduled for 2013, demonstrates that all the western Balkan nations can join the 27-member liberal democratic union if they implement the reforms that fulfill the EU's legal standards.

The German chancellor called on Zagreb to act as a stabilization force toward its neighbors.

"I am going to stress that Croatia use its experience with resolving disputes to engage constructively in the region," said Merkel.

Business ties

Serbian President Boris Tadic with EU President Herman van Rompuy

Serbia is also seeking to join the European Union

Merkel is also seeking to deepen economic integration with the region. In Croatia, the chancellor said Berlin had an "immense interest" in good business relations between the two nations.

Germany is currently Croatia's second largest trading partner and third largest investor. Croatian Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor noted that German firms were already participating in four different wind park projects as well as the expansion of the port in Zadar, located on the Adriatic Sea.

Merkel praised Croatia as a model of financially stability at a time when Europe is in the throes of a stubborn debt crisis.

"Everyone has seen that excessive debt is not only bad for the EU, it is also bad for every individual country," she said. "Whoever falls into the crosshairs of the markets does not see any benefit."

Talks in Serbia

Later, Merkel traveled to Serbia where she will meet with President Boris Tadic and Prime Minister Mirko Cvetkovic on Tuesday to discuss the steps Belgrade can take to help diffuse tensions with Kosovo after a violent dispute over two border checkpoints erupted in July.

"My story in Belgrade will be this: look at Croatia, they succeeded, we want you to have peace, to improve, to develop socially and economically... to join us at the table, but you need to do something in return," Merkel explained.

"One of the preconditions for Serbia [for joining the EU] is Kosovo, that relations between those states get normalized," she said.

Author: Spencer Kimball (AFP, Reuters, dpa)
Editor: Martin Kuebler

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