German FM Maas says membership for Western Balkans in EU’s interest

Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has said it’s in the European Union’s “strategic interest” to expand in the Western Balkans because otherwise “China and Russia will gain regional influence instead,” AP reported. Maas said Monday that Macedonia and Albania have begun putting in place the reforms required for EU membership. Speaking after a meeting with Albanian Foreign Minister Ditmir Bushati in Berlin, Maas said he’s “firmly convinced that the people in the Western Balkans want to live the way we do in Europe.” Maas says Germany is “very, very positive about expanding the EU in the Western Balkans.” The EU could open membership talks with Albania and Macedonia next year.