European Western Balkans

US State Department: We support opening accession talks with Skopje and Tirana without delay

Zoran Zaev and Edi Rama; PHOTO: Flickr

WASHINGTON – US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price tweeted that his country supported the opening of EU accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania without delay.

“We support the opening of EU accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania without delay. We are engaging at the highest levels of government to demonstrate our commitment to the aspirants’ European paths”, Price tweeted.

The General Affairs Council of the European Union is meeting on 22 June, with the exchange of views on Enlargement and Stabilisation and Association Process on the agenda.

The Council formally opened accession negotiations with both countries in March 2020. The next step is for the EU to adopt the negotiating frameworks with the two countries and hold the first Inter-Governmental Conferences.

European Commission presented to the Council draft negotiating frameworks for Albania and North Macedonia on 1 July 2020. It assessed that both countries were ready to advance to the next stage in its October annual reports.

However, the process has been in a deadlock, due to the veto of the Bulgarian government on negotiations with North Macedonia. Ideas of de-couping the two countries and letting Albania advance has been floated, but not endorsed by any official.

Macron: North Macedonia deserves to start accession negotiations

Prime Minister of North Macedonia Zoran Zaev met yesterday in Paris with President of France Emmanuel Macron, the main initiator of the postponement of the opening of accession talks in 2019. French President, however, now says he backs the start of the negotiations.

“The European Union decided in March last year to start negotiations with your country and now is the time to concretize that decision and France actively supports it. North Macedonia deserves to start negotiations without delay. I am personally involved in finding a solution with Bulgaria,” President Macron said in a statement before the working dinner, the Government of North Macedonia reported on its website.

Zoran Zaev and Emmanuel Macron in Paris; Photo: Government of North Macedonia

Prime Minister Zaev expressed special gratitude to President Macron.

“It is very important for us that France supports the process of integration of North Macedonia in the EU, with clearly set standards and without wasting time. Ahead of us is the European Council Summit in June, which is a real opportunity for a step forward and a solution that will remove the blockade on our European path”, Zaev said.

He stressed that the proposed solutions of the Portuguese presidency are a good basis and that the country is ready for a bilateral dialogue that will bring a reasonable and mutually acceptable agreement under the Friendship and Good Neighbor Agreement with Bulgaria, emphasizing that issues of Macedonian language and identity can not be at the negotiating table.

Dutch government ready to support the start of accession talks

Two letters from the Dutch government to the parliament show that during the 22 June General Affairs Council, the government intends to support adopting negotiating frameworks and planning Intergovernmental Conferences with North Macedonia and Albania, tweeted Wouter Zweers, Research Fellow at Clingendael – the Netherlands Institute of International Relations. The parliament will debate the issue on 16 June.

According to Zweers, the government wrote that it endorsed the Commission’s conclusion that Albania has now made sufficient progress on these conditions.

“… As part of the government’s strict and fair approach to EU enlargement, the first IGC with Albania can take place as far as the government is concerned once the negotiating framework has been agreed”, Zweers wrote.

In the past couple of years, the Netherlands has shown clear reservations about proceeding with the accession talks with Albania, and was, along with France, one of the few countries that reportedly prevented the decision on the opening of EU accession talks in October 2019, causing significant negative reactions from the EU officials.

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