Western Balkan and European Union leaders met on Thursday to discuss EU enlargement.
The leaders of Albania and Serbia attended the summit after briefly considering not attending, disappointed by the lack of progress on the steps to take to become members of the EU.
“We will continue and work even harder to make Albania a good member of the EU,” Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama wrote on Twitter after the meeting in Brussels.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic wrote on Twitter after the talks that his country would “fight” for a European future for Serbia.
Speaking to reporters after the summit, North Macedonia’s Prime Minister Dimitar Kovacevski said: “Russian aggression against Ukraine is a threat to all countries in the region and, in this context, the he enlargement of the European Union to the Western Balkans must be seen as a necessity, but also an investment in the security of the European Union.”
EU member state Bulgaria has blocked the start of accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania, angering the two Western Balkan states.
Albanian Prime Minister Rama criticized what he called the “kidnapping” of candidacies by Bulgaria and the “destruction” of the spirit of Europe.
Bulgaria has demanded that issues of “common history”, language and identity be discussed with North Macedonia as a precondition for membership talks, which North Macedonian President Stevo Pendarovski has said. described as “unacceptable”.
“It is unacceptable that historical issues and language disputes are included in the negotiation framework with the EU,” Pendarovski told Skopje-based TV24 Casa earlier this week.
This is also a problem for Albania because the European Union considers countries’ membership as a whole.
The political crisis in Bulgaria darkens Balkan hopes
On Wednesday, Bulgarian lawmakers voted against Prime Minister Kiril Petkov’s coalition government. The political crisis has tarnished the hopes of the Balkan countries to reach a solution.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said there might be a chance the Bulgarian parliament could reconvene and support lifting the veto on North Macedonia.
“Nothing is ever easy in the Balkans. But I think there’s a 50-60% chance you’ll see a breakthrough next week,” he said.
Where are the applications for EU membership from the Western Balkans?
The European Union began in 1951 as a block of six countries known as the European Coal and Steel Community, but has expanded over the years. It now has 27 member states.
The Western Balkan countries, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and Montenegro, are at different stages of the process of applying for EU membership.
Accession negotiations with the European Union for Montenegro and Serbia are ongoing, while negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania have been on hold since 2020.
Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina have applied for membership, but have still not entered into negotiations.
Separately on Thursday, EU leaders were meeting to decide whether to grant candidate status to Ukraine and Moldova, the first step in a long process to become members of the bloc.
Ukraine’s widely expected fast-track to official candidate status is seen as reinforcing Western Balkan feelings of being sidelined. But some see it as a good sign.
“From my point of view, it is good for the Western Balkan countries because it shows that the geostrategic importance of EU enlargement is still there and that there is movement in the enlargement process. “, said Manuel Sarrazin, Germany’s special representative for the Western Balkans. , told TUSEN.
fb/kb (dpa, Reuters)