EU Council fails to agree over negotiating framework for Albania and North Macedonia

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times November 19, 2020 15:01

EU Council fails to agree over negotiating framework for Albania and North Macedonia

Bulgaria vetoes North Macedonia on issues of national identity

Albania and North Macedonia have stumbled again upon major impediments in their quest to go forth with the intergovernmental conferences which in turn would mark and the official start of EU membership talks.

Representatives of European Union (EU) countries failed to reach a consensus on Tuesday again on the framework of talks with both countries, mainly on account of the Bulgarian veto for North Macedonia. Stepping up the disagreement started a few weeks ago, Sofia is opposing the green light for Skopje, on accounts of disrespect for the alleged “Bulgarian origin” of the Macedonia language and identity. The two countries shave signed a Friendship Treaty in 2017 which now North Macedonia claims that the Bulgarian side is not abiding by.

At the end of the meeting of ministers for European Affairs, the representative of the German presidency, Minister of State Michael Roth, reminded that since the spring of this year the two Balkan countries "have been given the green light" for membership talks "but now we want to create concrete conditions for this to become possible. We would like this to happen during our presidency ", which concludes at the end of December.

It is unclear at this point whether de-coupling of the two countries shall occur. Roth said that "We have to distinguish between the bilateral conflicts, the points of friction that still exist between Bulgaria and Northern Macedonia on the one hand, and the EU as a whole, on the other. It is clear that we want to help find reasonable solutions, that we want to eliminate all obstacles so that intergovernmental conferences can take place, why not throughout our presidency. "This is not the time for bilateral issues still unresolved to arise at the European level."

However Albania is not without obstacles either. Out of 15 conditions set to be fulfilled prior to the IGC-s, key ones are still at large. The Constitutional Court is incomplete and the new media draft law has not been revised yet as per Venice Commission conditions, to mention just the short term ones. The country is set to hold general elections in April of 2021 and therefore the timeline for appraisal of the readiness might be postponed until then. The free and fair conduct of the elections will be an ultimate political test, one that Albania has repeatedly failed in the last three decades.

Germany is said to press on with talks and potentially try to broker an agreement until the end of the year. For the German minister, the credibility of the EU itself is at stake. "We have to give signals of EU credibility, and give this signal to the Western Balkans. Albania and Northern Macedonia have made countless efforts to become part of the European family. "It is a very long and difficult journey, but now we have to start concrete talks."

Enlargement Commissioner Varhelyi, wrote on Twitter that "Work must continue and it is important to reach an agreement on negotiating frameworks with Albania and Northern Macedonia as soon as possible, so that the Intergovernmental Conferences can be held this year.”

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times November 19, 2020 15:01