From: Vincent W.J. van Gerven Oei
Dutch MFA Blok: North Macedonia “Clearly Greater” Progress Than Albania

Like Germany, the Dutch government has decided to “decouple” Albania from North Macedonia in the trajectory toward EU accession.

In the Parliamentary Committee of General Affairs, Minister of Foreign Affairs Stef Blok affirmed that the Dutch government maintains its position from earlier this, namely its intent on rejecting the opening of accession negotiations during the European Council Summit in October.

I believe that Northern Macedonia and Albania should be assessed independently, because they are different countries with different problems and different degrees of progress. I also indicated earlier that I think the rate of progress in Macedonia is clearly greater than that in Albania. The agreement with Greece on the name was in itself an important point of progress. […]

Albania is really a different case. I agree with [Christian-Democrat MP Pieter] Omtzigt in that regard. There is also an adopted motion by Mr Omtzigt with regard to Albania [to veto opening accession negotiations]. I also think that Albania should be able to start negotiations as soon as the country meets the criteria. But in that order, so as soon as the country meets those criteria. That is not yet the case.

Prime Minister Edi Rama has frequently insisted that North Macedonia and Albania should be treated the same. In June, he tweeted:

President @SPendarovski implicitly favours “decoupling from Albania”? Strange to hear this, especially when one considers the key contribution of Albania&Albanians in our friendly neighbour’s state democratic developments&European path. Doesn’t sound right nor practical frankly!

Meanwhile, North Macedonia has actively lobbied for decoupling, as it watched its neighbor backsliding in crucial areas such as press freedom and rule of law. The decision of both the Dutch and Germans to now decouple the two countries is therefore a sensitive defeat for Albanian diplomacy, which has been managed by Acting Foreign Minister Gent Cakaj after Edi Rama nominated himself as Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs.

Neither Acting Minister Cakaj nor Prime Minister Rama has yet responded publicly to the decision of Netherlands.