The European Council will demand Albania to fulfill several conditions before EU accession talks are opened, while North Macedonia will get the green light to start talks, according to hints from German officials and Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama.
The so-called decoupling of Albania and North Macedonia was requested before by the latter’s president and prime minister, it was hinted by former Greek PM Tsipras, and it has been one of the options for EU officials. This was despite the European Commission having recommended the unconditional opening of negotiations with both countries. Albania’s PM Edi Rama has insisted that both countries should proceed hand in hand toward the EU.
Whilst PM Rama was received by Chancellor Merkel last week to talk about the issue, CDU MP Gunther Krichbaum hinted to a possible ‘partial decoupling’ of the two countries. Krichbaum is also the chairman of the German parliament’s Committee on European Union Affairs.
In an interview with Deutche Welle he said he was “convinced” negotiations with North Macedonia would open.
“For me it is not a question of separation – in the end, it does not mean that the two countries will not start negotiations at the same time. Remember that this is only the first step, and then the opening of the chapters follows. It can happen, but it doesn’t have to be so. It is therefore important to respect the principle of the EU’s own merit and to have each country evaluated on its own merits”, Krichbaum added.
Bodo Weber, a senior associate of the Berlin-based think tank Democratization Policy Council (DPC), also talked about ‘partial decoupling’.
“The solution looks like that there will be a partial de-coupling, with North Macedonia getting an unconditional green light, and Albania getting a conditional green light – a set of conditions before opening of negotiations. This is kind of a middle-road solution where both parts of a ruling coalition in Berlin can find a compromise”, Weber was quoted saying by the European Western Balkans.
DPC was the first to announce in June that the Bundestag would postpone the decision for Albania and North Macedonia.
On the other hand, Albania’s Prime Minister Edi Rama and North Macedonia’s MFA Nikola Dimitrov met their counterparts in Germany last week.
Public messages by all sides after meetings seem to support possible conditional start of talks with Albania, and the unconditional green light for North Macedonia.
Rama’s tweets were not very optimistic.
“At the Committee of European Affairs of Bundestag to ask for a “YES” on Albania at the German parliament. An open and positive conversation,” he tweeted.
Rama also tweeted before and after meeting with Chancellor Merkel:
“At the Federal Chancellery to ask for a “YES” for Albania,” and “Very encouraged by considerations and the positive predisposition of Chancellor Merkel toward Albania. #RealFriend”
In public statements at home after the meetings Rama didn’t talk about “opening negotiations” anymore, but about the “process of negotiations” and “conditions of the process”.
The Chancellery also refrained from expressing Germany’s support for opening talks with Albania. A photo of Merkel and Rama was posted on internet with the following message of courtesy:
In contrast to the cold messages during Rama’s visit, one day earlier the German Minister for European Affairs Michael Roth had expressed his country’s full support to North Macedonia after meeting with its MFA Nikola Dimitrov.
“North Macedonia deserves a clear message from the #EU: Let’s start accession talks now! Thanks to @Dimitrov Nikola for strong pro-European commitment and true friendship. You and your country can count on us, dear Nikola!” – Roth tweeted.
North Macedonia is widely viewed as having progressed in its track-record toward the EU, particularly after its historic agreement with Greece.
The Albanian government is often criticized about the weak rule of law, democracy, and fight against crime and corruption.
The German parliament will decide in September whether to mandate the Merkel government to vote in favor or against opening negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia. France and the Netherlands also view with skepticism the opening of accession talks with the two Balkans countries. The European Council will take a final decision in October.