German Chancellor Angela Merkel has arrived in Albania on a two-day visit, which includes Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. The countries' desire to join the European Union has been complicated by the ongoing Greek crisis.e
Angela Merkel was to hold meeting with Albanian President Bujar Nishani later on Wednesday and was also scheduled to address a conference of German and Albanian businessmen.
Earlier in the day, Merkel met with Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama in the capital Tirana, confirmed Steffen Seibert, the German chancellor's spokesman, via Twitter.
Merkel is the second German chancellor since 1999 to have visited Albania, one of the poorest countries in Europe.
Albania, Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina have long been campaigning to join the European Union, but the three countries' mutual rivalries have complicated matters, as has the current crisis in Greece. In the wake of the debt dispute with Athens, EU officials are expected to lay out tougher conditions to accept countries with troubled economies.
The Greek debt crisis has also affected the economies of the poor states in the Balkans, which are economically dependent on Athens. The potential impact of the crisis is likely to be on Merkel's agenda during her meetings with the leaders of the three nations. Trade, energy and bilateral and EU relations will also be discussed.
In her weekly video address on Saturday, Merkel, however, said the Balkans states had a good chance of joining the EU.
"In all the difficulties that we currently have, there has been progress," she said, adding that the prospects for EU membership would also help these countries resolve their inter-regional disputes.
Merkel is expected to arrive in the Serbian capital Belgrade on Wednesday evening where the Serbian president, Aleksandr Vucic, is to receive her, the statement from Berlin said. She would also talk to civil society representatives at a breakfast meeting on Thursday.
Sarajevo in Bosnia-Herzegovina would be Merkel's last stop in the Balkans visit, where she will hold crucial talks with President Denis Zvizdic and visit an exhibition on the Srebrenica massacre of 1995.
shs/kms (AP, dpa, Reuters)