Friday

24th Sep 2021

EU paths fork for Albania and North Macedonia

  • North Macedonia prime minister Zoran Zaev (l) said Germany had pledged to give green light in September (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

Germany will agree to open EU accession talks with North Macedonia in September, Skopje has said, but Albania's prospects look less bright.

"We are convinced that North Macedonia will start negotiations with the EU this year," Macedonian prime minister Zoran Zaev said in a statement on Thursday (13 June) after meeting German leader Angela Merkel in Berlin.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"Chancellor Merkel informed us that the Bundestag will make a decision in September to approve the start of EU negotiations with North Macedonia in line with Germany's confirmed enlargement procedures," he added.

The German statement on the meeting was less outspoken, saying only that the two leaders had discussed "foreign and European policy issues" and praising North Macedonia's recent name deal with Greece.

Skopje had hoped that EU states' ministers meeting in a General Affairs Council next week would already give the green light in line with a European Commission recommendation.

But that was made impossible after the Bundestag put off its decision on the issue until after the summer recess.

"Germany can't take the decision because it hasn't been able to do its parliamentary procedure. Probably at the earliest, thus will happen in September," an EU diplomat said.

The EU Council president, Donald Tusk, summed up the situation while meeting Macedonian president Stevo Pendarovski in Brussels on Wednesday.

"Your country has delivered all the right political signals that the EU was expecting from the candidates. You have done everything that was expected of you," he said.

"But I want to be honest with you: not all member states are prepared to make the decision on opening negotiations in the coming days," Tusk added.

The German delay comes amid wider enlargement-scepticism in Denmark, France, and the Netherlands.

Dutch MPs, on Wednesday, voted against a resolution to block North Macedonia accession this year.

But 105 out of 150 of them did back one to block Albania talks due to concerns about organised crime and corruption, even though the EU commission had also given Tirana the green light.

"Given that Albania is not achieving sufficient tangible results [in the fight against crime], parliament calls on the Dutch government not to agree with the commission's proposal," the resolution said.

"This doesn't leave much room for interoperation," the EU diplomat added, on Albania's chances of getting an EU consensus to start talks any time soon.

But Albanian police, also on Wednesday, tried to polish the country's image by announcing they had broken up a gang of human traffickers who were smuggling migrants into the EU.

The Turkish-led group had trafficked Iraqi, Turkish, and Syrian nationals via Greece, Albania, and Montenegro into Croatia, the police said.

The EU's Frontex border control agency, which began patrolling the Albanian-Greek border from 22 May had already intercepted 229 irregular migrants there, the Albanian police noted, according to the Reuters news agency.

EU split on Western Balkans accession

Europe's credibility is at risk in the Western Balkans, half its member states have warned - but EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said Albania and North Macedonia unlikely to start accession talks soon.

EU delays Macedonia and Albania talks

Accession talks to start in 2019, not this year as hoped, after France, Denmark and Netherlands force delay despite breakthrough on Macedonia name dispute.

Albania's election: what is at stake?

Albanians will cast their vote in a general election on Sunday. Will it be a third mandate for the current government of prime minister Edi Rama, or he will be replaced by opposition nominee Lulzim Basha?

Opinion

Montenegro's membership can inspire the European Dream

Today (15 December) I come to Brussels with a simple purpose: to present the credentials of my country, Montenegro, to become the next member state of the European Union, writes prime minister Zdravko Krivokapic.

Interview

Does North Macedonia really exist?

Its language and history give North Macedonia its identity for president Stevo Pendarovski, but, for Bulgaria, neither of them are real, in a dispute holding up EU enlargement.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNATO Secretary General guest at the Session of the Nordic Council
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCan you love whoever you want in care homes?
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNineteen demands by Nordic young people to save biodiversity
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable public procurement is an effective way to achieve global goals
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed

Latest News

  1. Activists: 'More deaths' expected on Polish-Belarus border
  2. EU unveils common charger plan - forcing Apple redesign
  3. Central Europe leaders rail against 'new liberal woke virus'
  4. Yemen's refugees in 'appalling conditions', says UN agency
  5. VW emissions software was illegal, top EU lawyer says
  6. Sexism and the selection of the European Parliament president
  7. More French names linked to Russia election-monitoring
  8. Negotiations set for new, tougher, EU ethics body

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us