From: Exit News
EU Says No to Accession Talks, Albania Remains Hostage to Bulgaria’s Veto over North Macedonia

The General Affairs Council of the EU has failed to reach an agreement on starting EU accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia.

Bulgaria’s veto on North Macedonia made a unanimous decision of the 27 ministers of foreign affairs impossible, which also penalized Albania. The former two countries have been at odds over language and cultural issues.

“It was not possible to reach an agreement on approving the negotiation frameworks with North Macedonia and Albania,” Paula Zacarias of the Portuguese EU Presidency said in a press statement on Tuesday.

The ministers discussed negotiation frameworks for the two countries in Luxembourg – a document that lays out the guidelines and principles for their accession talks, including a date for the first intergovernmental conference. 

While all 27 EU ministers in the case of Albania, and 26 in the case of North Macedonia, agreed that the two countries have met the criteria for talks to start, the Bulgarian veto blocked both countries’ progress in the EU path this time. It left Albania also with no date for talks, given that the EU path of the latter is tied to that of its neighbor, North Macedonia.

EU leaders approved the opening of EU accession talks with the two countries in March 2020. However, they also made the start of negotiations conditional upon the fulfillment of a number of requirements for Albania, and none for North Macedonia. 

Later, Bulgaria raised a number of issues with North Macedonia’s implementation of a good neighbor agreement between the two countries. The Bulgarian side demands that Macedonians admit that their language and identity is an offshoot of Bulgarian, and claims its neighbor has “territorial, minority and historical claims” over Bulgaria. Macedonians have so far refused the allegations, and no agreement was reached despite several discussions between parties.

Albania’s Prime Minister Edi Rama stated earlier this month that, having fulfilled all conditions, he did not worry about the EU’s decision, as it depended on internal issues within the EU.