Sunday

11th Apr 2021

EU fails to deliver on Albania and North Macedonia

  • EU summit leaders held talks into the early morning hours - without result (Photo: European Council)

Albania and North Macedonia had their hopes dashed after Denmark, France and the Netherlands scuppered any agreement on opening accession talks.

The deadlock at the EU summit in Brussels on Thursday (17 October) highlights divisions among EU states on advancing the two Balkan states onto the next phase of one day joining the European Union.

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

Lithuania's president Gitanas Nauseda described it as a disappointment, saying "we failed to reach consensus because three states refused to invite both countries to start negotiations."

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte said the moment was not right, telling reporters that he was more worried about Albania than North Macedonia.

"There were long talks about the system of accession. We need to change that," he said, noting there is a need to put rule of law and separation of powers much earlier in the accession process.

Rutte's comments on procedure echoed French president Emmanuel Macron, who also wants the system overhauled.

The French-led blockade comes amid warnings the veto would endanger the Serbia-Kosovo peace process, doom North Macedonia's pro-EU government and give further credence to Russian influence.

North Macedonia prime minister Zoran Zaev on the eve of the summit had said a negative decision would "most certainly incite regressive forces in the country and will strengthen the interest of third parties in the region."

The Balkan state had changed its name following a decades long dispute with Greece, provoking backlash from Russian-backed nationalist forces.

Similar warnings were issued by EU enlargement commissioner Johannes Hahn, who had said there would be "no incentive for Serbia and Kosovo" to resolve their outstanding differences should the EU fail to deliver on opening North Macedonia accession talks.

The president of the European Parliament David Sassoli had also spoken out in support of Albania and North Macedonia.

"The European Commission is in favour of this and we would find it hard to explain to the people of those countries why we are delaying it," he said.

But with no consensus reached, EU leaders are unlikely to discuss the issue again on Friday as they gather for the second EU summit day, preferring instead to delve into other big topics like climate change and the EU budget.

Instead, any decision is now set to take place in the lead up to the Western Balkan summits in Zagreb next May.

North Macedonia was granted candidate status in 2005 followed by Albania in 2014.

Macron warned on danger of Balkans veto

France's veto on North Macedonia enlargement will endanger the Serbia-Kosovo peace process, a senior EU official has warned, but diplomats do not expect Macron to change his mind.

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.

Juncker: 'Historic mistake' against Balkan EU hopefuls

The president of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker described a decision to block Albania and North Macedonia from advancing into the next phase to eventually join the European Union as a historic mistake.

Bosnia wants explanation for Macron's 'time-bomb' remark

Bosnia requested an interview with the French ambassador to Sarajevo, after Emmanuel Macron described the country as a "ticking time bomb" and one of the greatest concerns for Europe due to the "problem of returning jihadists".

News in Brief

  1. Turkey blames EU for sexist protocol fiasco
  2. France to close elite civil-service academy
  3. Covid-19 cases in UK drop 60%, study finds
  4. White House urges 'calm' after Northern Ireland riots
  5. Italy's Draghi calls Turkey's Erdoğan a 'dictator'
  6. Slovakia told to return Sputnik V amid quality row
  7. EU risks €87bn in stranded fossil fuel assets
  8. Obligatory vaccination not against human rights, European court says

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 MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region can and should play a leading role in Europe’s digital development
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAEU Code of Conduct can showcase PPPs delivering healthier more sustainable society
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen benefit in the digitalised labour market

Latest News

  1. The Covid bell tolls for eastern Europe's populists
  2. Four deaths after taking Russian Sputnik V vaccine
  3. Post-Brexit riots flare up in Northern Ireland
  4. Advice on AstraZeneca varies across EU, amid blood clot fears
  5. Greenland election could see halt to rare-earth mining
  6. After 50 years, where do Roma rights stand now?
  7. Why Iran desperately wants a new nuclear deal
  8. Does new EU-ACP deal really 'decolonise' aid?

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us