Prime Minister Edi Rama is trying to perform a difficult balancing act.

He wants to integrate the Western Balkans and guarantee Kosovo as an independent state, but at the same time heal the phantom pains of Serbia.

This is what the well-known German newspaper Der Spiegel writes, adding that Russia is fueling the conflict in the Balkans and endangering the fragile peace.

According to Rama, the decision for Kosovo's independence was the right one.

"Putin says: Kosovo, Kosovo, Kosovo.

Russia is fueling the conflict in the Balkans and endangering the fragile peace", says Rama.

The full text of Der Spiegel

Putin says: Kosovo, Kosovo, Kosovo.

Russia is fueling the conflict in the Balkans and endangering the fragile peace.

Prime Minister Edi Rama explains what helps against mistrust and hatred and what Angela Merkel has to do with it.

The Prime Minister welcomes guests barefoot.

Edi Rama is a tall man with a furrowed brow and deep-set eyes.

Dressed in black shorts, a white Adidas T-shirt and no shoes, Rama sits with his wife Linda in the garden of a beach house.

The villa of the 1960s is located near the coastal village of Dhërmi, surrounded by pine trees.

The state once built it for the Albanian dictator Enver Hoxha.

Police officers stand guard at the door.

The most powerful man in Albania is on vacation.

"Don't bother me," says Linda Rama to SPIEGEL reporters, wearing a white cotton shirt and a peaked hat over her curly black hair.

In her husband's position, there are no real holidays.

Eleven years ago, Albanians elected for the first time Prime Minister Edi Rama with a large majority of votes.

As mayor of Tirana, the streets were painted in bright colors as he declared war on the corrupt judiciary.

Today, critics accuse Rama of having contacts with the accused, which he has denied.

And corruption is by no means Albania's only problem.

The war in Ukraine, only about a thousand kilometers away, is reopening old wounds in the region.

The great powers are again pulling the already fragile Western Balkans.

In recent months, the tensions between Serbia and Kosovo, which is closely connected with Albania, have intensified again.

At stake is nothing but peace in the Balkans.

Like Ukraine, Serbia threatens to become a bone of contention between Russia and the West: the country is trying to join the EU but cannot break away from its ally Russia.

While Putin is cutting off gas supplies to Europe, Russia is supplying Belgrade with energy and weapons.

The price for this is loyalty, a demand that is tearing Serbia apart.

"No one will destroy our relations with Serbia," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said recently when his planned visit to Belgrade was canceled at short notice because of a travel ban.

It looked like a threat.

Russia cannot hide its desire to curb US influence in the Western Balkans.

The turquoise sea shines behind Rama and the concrete skeletons of half-finished luxury hotels rise from the hills of Dhërmiu bay.

Several five-star hotels will soon open here.

It is hard to imagine that two decades ago Albania was still on the brink of civil war, when the country was battling gangs, militias and local vigilante groups after the fall of the communist system.

Today the new state relies on the tourism industry.

Albania is smaller than Brandenburg and with only 2.8 million inhabitants.

Fewer people live here than in Berlin.

However, the country in the Western Balkans is important for strategic defense, even against possible disruptive maneuvers by Moscow.

A member of NATO since 2009, trying to join the EU, Tirana acts as a kind of counterweight to Serbia.

Shortly before the Russian attack on Ukraine, NATO had just begun converting an old airport in southern Albania into an air force base.

Rama's government also offered the transatlantic alliance to build a NATO naval base near the port city of Durrës in the future.

If there were conflicts between Serbs and Albanians in the future, for example in the north of Kosovo, Tirana would probably play a central role.

Rama explains that residents in the region are divided into those who oppose Putin and those who support him.

And he believes: "Russia would be pleased if something moved in the direction of the conflict in the Balkans."

"80% of Orthodox Serbs think positively that Putin is just showing the West his balls in Ukraine... if we can say so," says Prime Minister Rama.

The new tensions in the Balkans are running almost along the old lines of Soviet and Western influence.

In Albania, on the other hand, approval for Putin's actions was only 0.7%.

His government revealed the numbers through a survey.

Rama believes that sympathies for Moscow are "strong" in Serbia, even "very strong" in Republika Srpska, where most of the Serbs of Bosnia-Herzegovina live.

In Montenegro, on the other hand, there is a deep division between the Montenegrin and Serbian population: "We must be aware that this influence can turn into something terrible."

Even 23 years after NATO troops intervened in Kosovo, the region is still controlled by the Western military alliance.

In 2008, Kosovo finally declared its independence.

The dispute with Serbia has never been resolved politically.

The loss of the province, populated mainly by Albanians, still affects Belgrade today.

For many Serbs, therefore, the peace has remained enforced even to this day.

To stop the killing of thousands of Albanians and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people in 1999, the NATO alliance broke its own rules.

The attack on Serbia, the bombing of Belgrade, was not covered by any UN mandate.

Politicians in Washington and Berlin justified the measure as a "humanitarian effort".

Nearly a hundred countries have now recognized Kosovo.

However, Russia, China and some EU countries, including Spain and Greece, have not recognized it.

It can also be said that the NATO mission in Kosovo serves as a kind of justification for Putin's aggressive annexation policy in Crimea, Donetsk, Luhansk, Abkhazia and Georgia.

Perhaps it was the beginning of today's crisis.

Can the disaster of the Yugoslav wars be repeated?

Rama answers with a counter question: "Have you heard how many times Putin mentions Kosovo in his speeches?", asks the Albanian politician.

"He repeats over and over: "Kosovo, Kosovo, Kosovo".

The head of the Kremlin promotes "the most painful of all unresolved problems" in the Balkans and does everything to create a new fuse.

Rama sees his country firmly anchored in the West.

Like few politicians in the region, he has grasped the world of different interests and cultivates international ones.

Contacts, from Riyadh to Istanbul, Paris and Washington.

"When Hillary Clinton called a year ago and asked me to take in several thousand undocumented Afghan refugees, the answer was immediately yes," Rama emphasized.

Because of his support in the Kosovo war in 1999, Rama would never refuse a Clinton wish.

At the end of the century, a professor at the art academy of Tirana and the son of a well-known sculptor, associated with the movement for democracy, there were not many like him at that time: good athlete, free artist, inspiring speaker.

But in Rama's fight for the recognition of a self-determined Kosovo, Albanian nationalist tones are sometimes confused.

When Rama leads a joint meeting of Pristina and Tirana, this causes Belgrade what it fears, the creation of "Greater Albania".

Rama grew up in an isolated place.

For decades Albania was considered as North Korea in Europe.

Based on this experience, the 58-year-old is attempting a difficult balance: he wants to integrate the Western Balkans and guarantee Kosovo as an independent state, but at the same time heal Serbia's phantom pains.

"The decision for Kosovo's independence was the right one!", says Rama, stretching out his hands in the warm summer air.

"After all, there is now a "peace and reconciliation process" even if it will continue for a long time."

After his election in 2013, Rama traveled to Belgrade, the first visit by a head of Tirana's government in 68 years.

When Rama asked the Serbian government to recognize Kosovo, his Serbian counterpart Vučić took him aside and said that "his staff was asking him to expel the brave host".

According to Rama, he replied to Vucic that these were just his officials, but he was smarter and therefore, the head of the government".

"However, recently there have been encouraging developments in the Balkans.

So I want Serbia, Albania and Montenegro to create a kind of mini-Schengen area to make better exchanges".

The "Open Balkans" project unites him with "his dearest enemy Aleksandar Vučić".

The promise of freedom of movement between countries is a small sensation.

At the end of the visit, Rama says that actually everything was Angela Merkel's idea.

Through her, he and Vucic found a stable working relationship, "despite the painful history".

In 2014, the Chancellor invited the six heads of government of the Western Balkans to Germany, which she called the "Berlin Process".

Merkel said that "we were Europeans, although not yet members of the European Union".

"For the first time in the history of the Balkans, senior politicians sat together at a table once a year, always in different European cities, in London, Paris, Trieste, Vienna.

Until she left politics, Merkel was personally present every time.

This has changed everything", says the Albanian Prime Minister, Edi Rama.

In these talks, the six leaders of the Balkan countries agreed to disagree.

But they all had a common will, says Edi Rama: "To overturn the fate of history".