Germany's Scholz wants Western Balkans in EU

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German Chancellor Olaf Scholz speaks during a session of Germany's lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, in Berlin, Germany, May 19, 2022. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

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BERLIN, May 19 (Reuters) - German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said he will travel to the Western Balkans before a meeting of the European Council takes place next month, bearing the message that the region belongs in the European Union.

The six Western Balkan countries with EU membership aspirations - Montenegro, Serbia, Albania, North Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo - have been engaged in years-long reform process, Scholz told lawmakers in Berlin on Wednesday.

"Honouring our commitments to them is not just a question of our credibility. Today more than ever, their integration is also in our strategic interests," he said, pointing to the influence of "external powers" in the region, including Russia.

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Reporting by Thomas Escritt and Rachel More

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