The leaders of the European Union countries approved the decision to start negotiations on joining the union of Albania and Northern Macedonia. Both countries are official candidates for EU membership. Experts note that the states still need to fulfill a whole set of conditions to become full members of the European Union, and believe that the negotiation process may be delayed indefinitely.
The leaders of the EU countries approved the decision to start negotiations on joining the union of Albania and Northern Macedonia. The relevant statement of the EU summit was issued after the meeting held the day before in the format of a video conference.
Earlier, the decision to start negotiations was also taken by the EU Council.
“The political agreement reached to start negotiations on the accession of Albania and the Republic of Northern Macedonia to the EU is a recognition of the serious reform efforts undertaken by these countries. Both countries have shown a clear political determination to follow the European path,” said Croatian State Secretary for European Affairs Andrea Metelko Zgombić.
“The road to accession is long. However, achieving real and sustainable progress in meeting the accession criteria brings Western Balkan partners closer to the EU,” she added.
Both countries have already been recognized as candidates for membership. Albania received that status in 2014. Macedonia’s accession until early 2019 was complicated by disagreements with Greece over the name of the country. Following the signing of the declaration of independence in 1991, the name of the State became the Republic of Macedonia. This did not suit Athens – the Greeks feared that official recognition of the name would give Skopje grounds for claims against the Greek region, which is also called Macedonia. In 2019, after signing the Pre-Spanish Agreement with Greece, the country changed its name to the Republic of Northern Macedonia, thus resolving the dispute.
It is worth noting that in early 2020, Brussels changed the order of negotiations on the admission of the country to the EU.
While earlier the start of the dialogue should have necessarily ended with the admission of the country to the community, now the EU has the right to freeze the negotiations and restart them on certain tracks, if it considers the progress made insufficient. This makes it possible to postpone the decision on the country’s accession indefinitely.
The EU has been stressing for several years that if the necessary prerequisites are met, it is ready to start negotiations, while Northern Macedonia and Albania, in turn, have been doing everything to ensure that this discussion begins, said the head of the research company Europe Insight Andrey Kulikov in a conversation with RT.
“First, it should be noted that this decision was expected last year. Then, due to the opposition of France, which put forward additional conditions, this decision was not taken. This caused serious political consequences in both countries, including, in fact, provoked the resignation of the Prime Minister of Northern Macedonia. And in Albania, in general, the situation was also turbulent. The fact that the EU finally agreed on this shows that the parties were able to reach an agreement. But, again, negotiations are not a fast process,” the expert said.
The countries still need to fulfill a whole set of conditions to become full members of the European Union, said Kulikov. The analyst admitted that even if the negotiations are successful, they may take so long that by the time of their completion the candidate countries may already be headed by other national leaders.