4th Jul 2022

EU Parliament endorses Balkan accession talks

  • North Macedonia president Stevo Pendarovski (r) with EU enlargement commissioner Olivér Várhelyi (Photo:

The European Parliament is demanding EU accession talks start with North Macedonia and Albania.

The endorsement followed a plenary vote on Thursday (25 March) - amid similar support from the European Commission.

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

The move may add additional pressure on member states to reach the required unanimity for any such talks to start.

Among the hold-ups is Bulgaria, which vetoed accession talks with North Macedonia last November. Sofia retains deep-seated historical and language grievances with North Macedonia.

The two also have sizeable minorities in each other's respective countries - triggering mutual accusations of right violations.

Olivér Varhelyi, the EU enlargement commissioner, demanded the two sides stop fighting. He said the tensions "might undermine the EU's wider interest" in the Western Balkans.

The European Parliament's lead MEP on North Macedonia is Bulgarian liberal Ilhan Kyuchyuk.

He too appealed for calm. "Both countries must find a common solution to their history, to their past," he told reporters.

But his colleague, Bulgarian centre-right MEP Andrey Kovatchev, remained entrenched and claimed the dispute has nothing to do with culture or history.

He then used historical references while calling out Slovenian socialist MEP Tanja Fajon, who supports North Macedonia's bid.

"Is it for you [Fajon] a historical provocation towards the Slovenian people, if I say say something about the atrocities of Tito's communism?" he asked.

He also referenced Eurovision, noting that a North Macedonia contestant was the target of abuse after making known his Bulgarian origins.

"The Bulgarian veto to North Macedonia is irresponsible," retorted Fajon, describing it as a one-sided interest.

The EU presidency, steered by Portugal, offered a more measured analysis.

Speaking on behalf the presidency, Ana Paula Zacarias, said they are still hoping official accession talks could start before June.

"Consistent progress has been achieved," she said of North Macedonia. But she also added that deeper reforms are needed.

She made a similar assessment for Albania, but noted the country's "political environment remains strongly polarised".

Albania also received strong endorsement from the MEP leading the file, Portugal's centre-left Isabel Santos.

"What is fundamental is to say 'yes', to say yes to Albania once-and-for-all," she told reporters.

However, a US state department report published earlier this month, remained critical of Albania.

It said Albania "had made no significant progress toward thwarting money laundering and financial crimes in 2020."


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.


Nato's Madrid summit — key takeaways

For the most part Nato and its 30 leaders rose to the occasion — but it wasn't without room for improvement. The lesson remains that Nato still doesn't know how or want to hold allies accountable for disruptive behaviour.


One rubicon after another

We realise that we are living in one of those key moments in history, with events unfolding exactly the way Swiss art historian Jacob Burckhardt describes them: a sudden crisis, rushing everything into overdrive.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  4. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers for culture: Protect Ukraine’s cultural heritage!
  6. Reuters InstituteDigital News Report 2022

Latest News

  1. Ex-Frontex chief 'uninvited' from parliament committee
  2. Czech presidency and key nuclear/gas vote This WEEK
  3. The human rights aspects of Grenoble's 'burkini' controversy
  4. Council must act on core of EU migration package
  5. Nato's Madrid summit — key takeaways
  6. Czech presidency to fortify EU embrace of Ukraine
  7. Covid-profiting super rich should fight hunger, says UN food chief
  8. EU pollution and cancer — it doesn't have to be this way

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us