European Western Balkans

Council without decision on Skopje and Tirana, EU leaders will have the final say

European Council meeting room; Photo: European Union

LUXEMBOURG – General Affairs Council of the European Union, mainly made up of the European affairs ministers from all EU member states, postponed the issue of opening of of accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania, stating that it will revert to the issue after the meeting of the European Council, which takes place on Thursday and Friday.

In a short note from the Council Presidency, currently held by Finland, this body recalled the Council conclusions of 18 June 2019 to revert, no later than October 2019, to the issue of the Commission’s recommendations to open accession negotiations with the Republic of North Macedonia and Albania.

“In light of the Council’s discussion on the Republic of North Macedonia and Albania, the Presidency notes that the Council will revert to the issue after the European Council”, reads the second and final paragraph of the note.

General Affairs Council discusses draft conclusions and draft decisions before the EU heads of state and government meet within the European Council. Failure to adopt draft conclusion on Albania and North Macedonia signals the lack of consensus among member states.

Membership negotiations cannot start until all EU governments agree, in the form of a unanimous decision by the EU Council, on a framework or mandate for negotiations with the candidate country.

Outgoing European Commissioner for Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn said in a press conference that he “likes rendezvous but not inconclusive ones like today’s General Affairs Council”.

“I hope that EU leaders can rectify today’s non-result at European Council meeting. Not a moment of glory for Europe! How can we be a global actor if we even can’t deal with our inner courtyard, the Western Balkans?”, Hahn said.

He also tweeted that the opening of accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia is in the genuine interest of the EU.

Hahn also stated that it is important to stress that the huge majority of EU member states supported the European Commission’s recommendation.

In the past few weeks, the media have reported that France and the Netherlands are among a small group of EU member states that still opposes opening of negotiations either with Albania alone or with both countries.

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