EU May Start Entry Talks With Albania Only, Varhelyi Says

The European Union may change tack in its plan to expand in the western Balkans and start entry talks with Albania only as North Macedonia’s efforts remain blocked by another member state.

EU foreign ministers are meeting in Brussels on Monday and are expected to discuss the situation in the western Balkans. Accession talks with the two candidates were expected to start as early as next month.

“Our goal remains unchanged: We’d like to start accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia,” EU Enlargement Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi told Hungarian daily Magyar Nemzet on Monday. “If we can’t solve the North Macedonia issue, then we must think about starting with Albania alone. We must make progress with enlargement. There is no more time to lose.”

EU May Start Entry Talks With Albania Only, Varhelyi Says

Bulgaria continues to block North Macedonia’s path to the EU over the name of its language, among other objections. A final decision must be agreed-on by all member states, some of which in the past have argued against decoupling the two candidates.

If only Albania advances, North Macedonia’s perception of being stuck in a limbo is likely to deepen. That would complicate matters for the ruling coalition in Skopje that has staked its credibility and political future on the EU accession goal.

“We’re ready for talks and we believe there should be another attempt” to unblock negotiations, Zoran Zaev, North Macedonia’s prime minister, said at a meeting with Varhelyi in Brussels on Monday. “But our colleagues in Bulgaria and everyone in the EU should know that we will neither discuss nor negotiate about our identity.”

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