"The Balkans will miss Angela Merkel"

"Merkel represents a policy in the Balkans that puts the interests of the German economy and stability above democracy," the dpa agency estimates.

Handelsblatt writes that the region will still regret when Merkel retires.

"At the end of the mandate, the federal chancellor travels to the part of Europe that the West has neglected lately. Many are wondering if this is just a farewell tour - or does Merkel want more?", writes the analysis of the leading German agency dpa.

Merkel is on a bilateral visit to Belgrade on Monday, and after that she will go to Tirana, where she will meet with all the heads of state or government of the Western Balkans.

Official Berlin stated that the visit was dedicated to "regional cooperation". "It is more than a cautious description of the mountain of problems that has accumulated over the years in Serbia, Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Kosovo.

German diplomats in the region say the chancellor wants to take more care of the states at the end of her term. "Western Balkans, maybe set a couple of roadmaps for the next German government," writes dpa.

The elections in Germany are on September 26, and after them, Angela Merkel is going to the long-announced political retirement. The visit to Serbia and Albania is one of her last trips abroad.

Dpa adds that officially Serbia and the neighborhood have a "European perspective", but that they have not advanced far. "There are shortcomings practically everywhere - in various forms: in the field of the rule of law, administrative expertise. Corruption and nepotism are flourishing. Independent media and critical civil society are under growing pressure. Authoritarian tendencies rule here and there."

Stating that neglecting the Balkans means that the region is becoming a kind of chessboard for the conflict between Russia, China and Turkey with the West, the agency writes that Chancellor Merkel enjoys a great reputation in the region. "Vucic, who is running his country more and more autocratically, is showering the chancellor with the highest praise. Other leading politicians in the region appreciate her expertise."

However, according to the dpa, Angela Merkel's recapitulation in the region is rather "colorful". She launched the Berlin Process seven years ago, which resulted in a regional forum for youth cooperation and the abolition of roaming. Also, Berlin "stopped" the plans for the division of Kosovo launched in 2018.

"At the same time, Merkel represents a policy in the Balkans that puts the interests of the German economy and stability above democracy and the rule of law - a pattern that can be seen in her restrained attitude towards Viktor Orban, a Hungarian violator of the rule of law."

"Vucic, her host on Monday, rules in Serbia with virtually no opposition. Critics say his diplomats and intelligence support Serbian separatists in Bosnia and Montenegro. He is referred to in Berlin as a guarantor of stability, allegedly serving German interests," dpa concluded.

Daily Handelsblatt writes that the end of the chancellor's era is "bitter" for the Western Balkans because the countries there "are losing important support in the European Union and are now threatening to stay in the waiting room even longer."

"Because France, as one of the most powerful EU countries, opposes EU enlargement and attracts more and more members to its side. (…) It is unclear whether the next German government will succeed, like Merkel, in influencing French President Macron and others EU countries that often use their veto power on enlargement. When chancellor candidates Armin Laschet (CDU) and Olaf Scholz (SPD) visited Macron in Paris last Wednesday and Monday, the European integration of the Balkans was not among the topics," the paper recalls.

Handelsblatt concludes that the integration of the Western Balkans into the EU would be of "central geostrategic interest". "Hesitation in EU capitals when it comes to the EU enlargement is used by other world powers such as Russia, China and the countries of the Arabian Peninsula to strengthen their influence in the region, which causes growing skepticism towards the EU."