EU accession negotiations postponed until second half of 2021

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times November 15, 2020 10:09

EU accession negotiations postponed until second half of 2021

EU accession negotiations with Albania will most likely be postponed to the second part of next year as both the discussion between the foreign affairs ministers of the triple presidencies of the EU and an early draft document of the General Affairs Council obtained by Albanian media shows. 

The document foresees that the first intergovernmental conference can be held this year in December . "The Council expects to hold the first intergovernmental conference with Northern Macedonia and - if the conditions set in the March 2020 Council conclusions are met - with Albania, in December 2020."-reads the declaration that can still change. However major impediments exist for both countries. Albania still has to fulfill key conditions set out on March 24, 2020 when the first green light was given by the EU. These include the functioning of the Constitutional and High Court. North Macedonia also is facing significant push back from Bulgaria in the last months regarding issues of national identity. 

The Council will need to convene on November 17 to discuss the negotiating framework and the set of conclusions expected to be approved on the same date. If not then the issue will be retaken on the Council in December. 

A slightly later timeline was discussed this week, by German Minister for European Affairs Michael Roth, who spoke in a videoconference to Portuguese and Slovenian counterparts Ana Paula Zacarias and Gašper Dovžan and where they mentioned that it is likely that the first intergovernmental conference for both Albania and North Macedonia will be held in March 2021. In their joint declaration they highlighted that all the three presidencies consider enlargement as a key priority and that following presidencies will work towards opening the negotiations for both countries. 

In any case that also leaves the second intergovernmental conference to be done before the chapter by chapter process begins. Experts believe that this will be left to the Slovenian presidency given also the significance of this chairmanship since Slovenia is also part of the region. 

In the meantime in a few months, Albania is holding its general elections in a highly polarized climate and amidst political tensions, with the opposition having walked out of the parliament two years ago. A senior researcher at the Albanian Institute for International Studies (AIIS) told Tirana Times that “ elections will be the ultimate test for the government’s political will to conduct a free and fair process. A NATO member state with the ambition to open negotiations such as Albania is yet to pass the basic test of free and fair elections.” 

Domestic commentators agree that failure to hold proper elections will put the country’s overall stability to risk and ultimately undermine the European integration process.

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times November 15, 2020 10:09