European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in Skopje that she wholeheartedly supported the opening of Northern Macedonia’s talks with the European Union and insisted that they begin by the end of the year, as well as those with Tirana.
Von der Layen began his tour of the Western Balkans from the two capitals, after which the leaders of the six non-EU Balkan countries will meet with those from the European Union in Slovenia on October 6th. Days before this agency meeting Reuters reported, citing diplomatsthat the bloc countries are no longer even ready to guarantee the membership prospects of the countries in the region.
The process has been blocked by Bulgaria due to the veto imposed on negotiations with Northern Macedonia over bilateral issues.
This is also the indirect reason for the blockade of Albania, as the two are going in a package. Asked in Skopje how she perceived the possibility of separating the two countries, she did not react, but reiterated Tirana’s assurance that the focus was on the idea of opening negotiations as soon as possible – by the end of the year. Such a deadline appeared in the latest comments on the topic of Prime Minister Zoran Zaev.
“We are also working and talking with Bulgaria in order to overcome this last obstacle. There are many good ideas that are worth considering in order to overcome the last obstacle and start with the first intergovernmental conference.”
President of the European Commission
The president of the European Commission said earlier in Tirana that the two countries had fulfilled all their tasks.
The decision for this start is not with Von der Leyen, but with the European Council, where Bulgaria announced in November last year that it would not change its position if a number of conditions were not met (which are part of the positions in a document adopted by parliament last year). earlier).
Von der Layen called on Macedonians “not to lose confidence” and called the future start of talks a “new success”. “You have made great progress and now it is time for the EU to return the favor.” She also listed areas in which Northern Macedonia needs to work with its neighbors and the EU – connectivity, energy, digitalisation, and the fight against climate change.
“We have so much to do”
Zaev used his press conference with Von der Leyen to reiterate that Bulgaria’s veto did not meet the region’s aspirations to join the EU and that it “questioned” European values, which are also “values of the candidate countries from the Western Balkans”.
I look forward to the EU-Western Balkans Summit next week.
There, together, we will chart the course to the future.
And as future EU member, I also want Albania to fully take part in the Conference on the future of Europe.
We need to hear from the Albanian people. pic.twitter.com/N2rCB690EP
– Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) September 28, 2021
The fact that Von der Layen does not actually have a direct opportunity to get the talks out of the impasse was previously reminded to her in Tirana by Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama.
He also attacked Bulgaria, saying that “whether the conferences and chapters will be open or not is a matter for the EU, not the commission, but a member of the European family who treats one so stubbornly, but another is being held hostage. There are so many other things we need to do that we should not lose focus, patience and humility, but move forward. “
Until this spring, Albania could not move forward due to the silent resistance of the Netherlands, which insisted on concrete reforms to change its position. After the government announced that it considered the commitments fulfilled, parliament allowed the foreign minister to approve the talks. Thus, because of the Netherlands and indirectly because of Bulgaria, and in 2019 – and because of France, neither of the two countries could move forward on its path to European integration. Formally Sofia it remained the only country to speak out against this process, since the spring.
Rama continued in the same vein, explaining that “we will no longer prepare for a wedding because it is now in the hands of the suitors”:
“Many times so far we have been prepared for a wedding, but the matchmakers did not come. Now we are not preparing for a wedding, but for expressions of love, because weddings are in the hands of the matchmakers.”
Prime Minister of Albania