EU delays opening of accession negotiations for Albania and North-Macedonia

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times June 24, 2021 10:39

EU delays opening of accession negotiations for Albania and North-Macedonia

Bulgaria’s veto to the opening of accession talks for Macedonia and Albania further delays the integration process for the two Balkan states. In a press-conference, the Portuguese State Secretary for European Affairs Ana Paula Zacarias confirmed that at the moment  there will be no opening of accession negotiations and that the first intra-governmental conference will be further delayed due to the fact that Bulgaria did consent for the opening of the talks with Macedonia, in light of dispute between the states which relates to their shared history and the allegedly false interpretation of historical events, as well as an allegedly increasing anti-Bulgarian sentiment in Macedonia.

The latest move by the Bulgarian Ambassador to the EU has indirectly affected Albania, which must now patiently wait until the issue is resolved, even though every EU Member State gave Albania the green light, including France and the Netherlands, two states that were previously  opposed to this idea.

During an economic forum held in Skopje, the Albanian Prime-Minister and his Macedonian counterparty expressed their regrets for this latest development. Prime Minister Rama stated that Albania would focus on improving its economic performance and wellbeing, despite of the current problematic in Brussels. In a similar fashion, Prime-Minister Zaev stated that the two governments would focus on increasing regional cooperation and that he hoped that the EU would soon be able to resolve what he described as an internal issue.

The Bulgarian Veto once again highlighted some of the difficulties associated with EU’s decision to open accession negotiations with Albania and Macedonia as a group, rather than individually. The biggest pitfall of such a strategy is that the decision to open accession negotiations for one of the countries is conditional not only upon whether it has fulfilled its requirement, but also  upon approval by EU Member States for the opening of negotiations for the other country.

 A few years earlier the opening of accession negotiations was delayed due to the Albanian Government’s failure to implement the required reforms. Although this decision was rather regrettable for Macedonia, the time-frame in which such issues may be addressed depended on the resolve and efficiency of the Albanian Government. Today, the EU integration process is being held up due to a conflict between Bulgaria and Macedonia. The complexity of this conflict makes it difficult to predict when it may be resolved, and if experience has taught us anything, it is that  deep conflicts between Balkan States may take years or even decades to resolve.

An expert on integration from the Albanian Institute for International (AIIS) interviewed by Tirana Times expressed concern that the "coupling procedure and its impact on becoming an unintended blockage for aspiring countries needs to be revisited as it is undermining legitimacy of EU integration and efficacy of conditionality."

The Bulgarian Ambassador to the EU has come under fire from several of his peers due to the  decision to veto the opening of accession negotiations for Macedonia. With Bulgaria under international pressure to change its position, it is hoped that the issue will be resolved quickly. If this does turn out to be the case, a “de-coupling” of Albania and Macedonia as regards the EU integration process might prove to be a viable strategy. Another pitfall of the decision to open accession negotiations for Albania and Macedonia simultaneously is that the emergence of such conflicts between an EU Member State and a candidate country takes attention away from the most important issues that must be resolved by both Albania and Macedonia on an internal level in order to fulfill the conditions that would ensure a successful EU Integration.  Such scenarios give an opportunity to the governments of the respective countries to divert public attention away from considerations as to whether they have done enough to satisfy the conditions placed by EU Member States.

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times June 24, 2021 10:39