BRUSSELS – Failure to set a date for the start of accession negotiations between North Macedonia and Albania is a mistake, concluded President of the European Council Donald Tusk and President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker at an afternoon press conference in Brussels.
“I personally think that this is a mistake and I will not comment further,” Tusk said.
He said the two countries must not give up and that he believes they will one day become full members of the EU.
“To our Macedonian and Albanian friends: Please do not give up! I understand your frustration, but you have to understand that the EU is a political body and it does take time, but I have no doubts that one day you will be full members of the EU”, said Tusk.
The European Commission president, too, said that when he took office five years ago, he said there would be no enlargement because there were no countries ready for negotiations, but he was surprised. And Juncker said the European Council made a mistake by not giving a date.
“Five years ago, I said that during the five years my mandate there would be no new enlargements. Many were disappointed, but it was clear there was no progress. And yet progress has been made. Yesterday the question was whether there were candidates to start negotiations and many countries said there were candidates who were fully prepared. That is it. And I think it was a historic mistake”, Juncker said.
His successor Ursula von der Leyen stated that she regrets the decision not to open accession negotiations.
“I firmly believe that the both countries have made enormous efforts to approach European standards. It was very important for me that they get a positive signal”, said von der Leyen.
President of the European Parliament David Sassoli reminded that Parliament’s decision is that the green light should have been given.
“We feel that if the EU asks for sacrifices and changes to be made and if those sacrifices are implemented, we should stick to our word”, he stressed.