The ministers of European affairs of the EU member states have failed to agree on starting accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia.
This leaves only about three weeks for them to reach a unanimous agreement before the next meeting on 8 December for talks to start under the German Presidency of the Council of the EU.
The European Council opened accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia in March. The General Affairs Council (GAC), composed of ministers of European affairs, should unanimously adopt the negotiating framework for both countries before the EU sits in the first intergovernmental conference (IGC) with each. The IGC will mark the start of talks.
In today’s online GAC meeting, the ministers expressed willingness to approve the start of talks with Albania once it meets the conditions, while only Bulgaria refused the start of talks with North Macedonia.
“All delegations today expressed their support for a successful conclusion of the negotiating framework with one exception, Bulgaria. Bulgaria refers to points it regards as important,” German Minister of State for Europe Michael Roth said on Tuesday.
Asked by Albanian journalist Erisa Zyka of ABC News on whether there are chances for talks to start under the German presidency, within 2020, he expressed cautious optimism.
“I felt that today’s meeting was a tailwind to enable us to reach a conclusion by the end of our presidency – a successful conclusion, which means adoption of the negotiating framework and opening of the accession conferences,” Roth said.
He stressed the two remaining conditions expected to be fulfilled by Albania:
“Quite frankly, you referred to Albania, and you said that there are two points still, there are two outstanding issues and they’re part of the Council conclusions of April. First of all, it’s the Supreme [High] Court’s ability to do its work, and secondly, implementation of the new electoral law,” he explained.
Roth said that the issue of the High Court “will take some time”, and that he wasn’t sure whether the two conditions will be met by Albania before 2020.
“Of course, in a polarized country like Albania there are political conflicts, this is true of many countries. It’s difficult to achieve a consensus on the electoral law but Albania is on the right track. Whether we can reach a successful conclusion by the end of the year is something I can’t say yet,” he said.
The Albanian ruling majority and Prime Minister Edi Rama blamed the possible failure of the start of EU talks on elections taking place in some EU countries in 2021, and particularly in The Netherlands. They suggested that the Dutch, French and German governments may link their electoral campaigns to Albania’s progress in EU accession.
In a statement for Exit News through their embassy in Albania, the Dutch government reacted by stressing their support for the start of EU talks and the need for Albania to meet the European Council conditions.