Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has hinted that EU accession negotiations could open with North Macedonia but not necessarily with Albania.
In an interview with the Financial Times, Tsipras said that if Albania meets its human rights obligations:
“Greece — and I personally — will support a possible decision in June for Albania and North Macedonia to start their EU accession processes [together] . . . But we won’t endanger the accession process for North Macedonia, if it has made progress. That would be unfair.”
FT further quotes Tsipras as saying that he had explained to Prime Minister Edi Rama that Albania must better protect the rights of the Greek ethnic minority, otherwise the country’s path to EU membership will be closed.
Amidst various opinions on the EU enlargement process, some experts argue that if accession negotiations are opened with North Macedonia, but not with Albania, this could make Albanians feel they were the only ones left out. Indeed, in such a case Albania and Kosovo would be the only two countries in the Balkans that would have not opened accession negotiations with the EU. Some experts have also suggested that this could lead to a rise of populism and nationalism in these countries.
Prime Minister Tsipras seems to reject this point of view. He clarified that Greece’s decision to open negotiation or not will be taken separately for each of the two countries – Albania and North Macedonia will not be treated en bloc.
The latest disagreement between the Greek and Albanian governments related a February 2019 decision of the Rama government that would have practically opened the way to nationalize private land in the coast of Albania. The majority of the Greek ethnic minority live in the southern coast of the country. Following pressure by Greece, including a phone call by PM Tsipras, Rama decided to pause the implementation of his previous decision.
Other remaining issues, according to Tsipras, include maritime borders, the technical state of war between the two countries (since 1945), and the status of Albania’s ethnic Greek minority.