Europe

Albania & North Macedonia’s EU membership bids ‘must be together’

EU membership talks with Albania and North Macedonia cannot be “decoupled”, says the bloc”s foreign affairs chief, Josep Borell

Brussels had been considering both applications together, but last week Olivér Várhelyi, the European commissioner for enlargement, told Euronews that decoupling the bids “might be an option” if Bulgaria continues to oppose North Macedonia’s entrance in the bloc.

Bulgaria demands North Macedonia, which has been a potential candidate for EU membership since 2003, to acknowledge the Bulgarian origins of the Macedonian language and nation.

“We need to advance the accession process of Albania and North Macedonia and, by the way, there has never been any intention of decoupling both countries on the accession process,” said Borrell, speaking after a meeting of the EU’s foreign affairs ministers.

“About North Macedonia, the conditions have been met by North Macedonia and the member states decided to open negotiations and I hope the first Intergovernmental Conference [the start of membership talks] should be convened soon.”

It comes after Zoran Zaev, North Macedonia’s prime minister, told Euronews that any further delay could put the stability of the entire region at risk.

“It’s a huge risk if there is a continuation of the blockage. For Bulgaria also, for North Macedonia sure. Because as you see, it’s starting to appear in non-paper documents, the development of very dramatic ideas. What I can confirm is that it is possible. It’s the Balkans. The Balkans was a bomb not centuries ago, but ten or twenty years ago. We don’t want to repeat that,” Zaev said.

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