From: Alice Taylor
Albania, N.Macedonia Lash Out at EU for Failure to Start Accession Talks

On Wednesday, the leaders of Albania and North Macedonia criticized the European Union for failing to approve the start of EU accession talks with the two Balkan countries one day earlier.

During a press conference in Skopje, Albanian PM, Edi Rama, said that the decision reflected a failure on the EU’s part and not theirs. 

“This isn’t the first time they’ve failed to give us a chance for the First Intergovernmental Conference […] Some countries said Albania wasn’t ready doesn’t mean we were not ready; rather, it’s related to their domestic issues. For example, when the Netherlands had their election issue, they said we were not ready.

I am only concerned with how much progress we make. We are not doing this because some statesmen in Brussels tell us we need to move forward.”

He added:

“We have not failed; they have failed. So a slightly strange situation is created as in Albania, they trust these European officials and think that domestic politics is the problem.”

His North Macedonian counterpart Zoran Zaev echoed his comments, saying it was a “great despair for us, but also a failure of European Union policy.”

He said the decision, conditioned by Bulgaria’s veto, was particularly unfair to Albania.

Zaev said that the countries of the Western Balkans should be more committed to getting closer to each other.

“Our peoples and governments, in the middle of the Balkans, demonstrate European values. We have rapidly begun to remove barriers and obstacles between us. We have common challenges and common cultures,” he concluded.

The General Affairs Council of the EU disagreed 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, penalizing Albania. In addition, 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.

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.