EU leaders have once again failed to reach agreement on allowing Albania and North Macedonia to start talks to join the bloc, dealing a fresh blow to their membership hopes.
It is the third time that the European Council has delayed a decision.
Several hours of talks in Brussels on October 17 ended without the two Balkan states being given a date to begin the long process of accession negotiations. While most EU member states believe that the two countries – North Macedonia especially, which ended a 30-year dispute with Greece over the use of the name Macedonia – have made enough progress for talks to begin, French President Emmanuel Macron continues to steadfastly oppose the idea. Denmark and the Netherlands are also opposed.
The foreign minister of North Macedonia, Nikola Dimitrov (pictured above), was highly critical of the delay.
“The least that the European Union owes the region is to be straightforward with us,” he wrote on Twitter. “If there is no more consensus on the European future of the Western Balkans, if the promise of Thessaloniki 2003 does not stand, the citizens deserve to know. Gratitude to all leaders that fought hard for the EU to open accession talks with us, thus acknowledging and anchoring the historic Prespa Agreement, encouraging domestic reforms and underpinning the European narrative in North Macedonia, a candidate country for 14 years. While we wait for a renewed consensus, we must continue to defend true European values at home.”
Lithuania’s president, Gitanas Nauseda, said that he believes a new delay will send the wrong message.
“[North Macedonia] changed the country’s name, it changed its constitution and it did everything to receive an invitation, so I think the absence of a decision will have serious political consequences,” said Mr Nauseda.