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Currently, the 27 still do not agree on the start of accession negotiations with Northern Macedonia and Albania because of Bulgaria’s veto.
However, European leaders call the decision to give Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova EU candidate status a “historic” moment.
In his opinion, “We are not where we should be with the Western Balkans. I am very disappointed with the way things have been done, with only one country – alluding to Bulgaria – blocking the whole process. Things are not going well. “
The head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell, did not miss a detail during the summit between the leaders of the European Union and the countries of the Western Balkans, preceding a European Council that confirmed the EU candidate status for Ukraine and Moldova (and Georgia once it meets the required requirements). of Brussels). A more than “symbolic” decision that sends a strong signal to the Kremlin: the future of these countries is not under the influence of Russia, but of the EU, writes El Periodico.
In his vision, “It is a historic agreement, a historic decision,” European Council President Charles Michel celebrated at a news conference after the decision. “It is a turning point and a good day for Europe,” added European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. “Once, for good reasons, NATO said no to Ukraine’s accession to NATO, we would have made a political mistake and left a vacuum if we did not reach out to Ukraine and Moldova (…) We could not leave a strategic and geopolitical vacuum. That is the meaning of this European perspective and the recognition of the candidate status “, added the French president Emmanuel Macron, referring to a hasty decision by the Russian war.
Specifically, the support of Chisinau and Kiev, in record time by the usual standards, comes just four months after Ukrainian Volodymyr Zelensky presented the petition – on the fourth day of the Russian invasion – and on the same day that the 27 committed to revitalize the expansion process.
In fact, there is a promise that, for the time being, does not translate into concrete progress. Moreover, the six countries of the Western Balkans left Brussels empty-handed and disappointed after a tense and difficult four-hour meeting, with many reproaches, including a confrontation between Macron and his Serbian counterpart, Alexander Vucic, according to some sources. diplomatic. A verbal duel that continued during a two-hour bilateral meeting that led European leaders to start the European Council with a reflection on the Balkans and not on Ukraine. According to Michel, they promised to resolve disputes between Northern Macedonia and Bulgaria and speed up the process with Bosnia and Herzegovina.
In his explanations, “There were no concrete results, but it was a good discussion and I will never underestimate it. But if you ask me if Northern Macedonia and Albania got a date (for starting accession negotiations), it failed. If Pristina (Kosovo) has achieved visa liberalization, it has not. If Bosnia and Herzegovina obtained the status of candidate, it did not obtain it “, summed up resigned Vucic, whose country is the only one in the Balkans that refused to apply European sanctions against Russia for the war in Ukraine and which some colleagues accuse of playing in two ends with Brussels and Moscow.
At the Thessaloniki (Greece) summit, the EU promised a “European perspective” to these countries. Twenty years later, progress has been limited. Of the six countries – not counting Turkey, whose chances of accession have shrunk – only two, Serbia and Montenegro, have begun negotiating with the European Commission some of the 33 chapters of the process, but with extreme slowness. Northern Macedonia, which had to change its country name to overcome initial reluctance on the part of Greece, and Albania won candidate status in 2005 and 2014, respectively, but are still hitting the Bulgarian wall 17 and 8 years respectively. Late.
In his opinion, “It is a pity that one NATO country, Bulgaria, is hijacking two other NATO countries, Albania and Northern Macedonia, in the middle of a hot war in the EU court and with 26 other countries sitting in a terrifying spectacle of helplessness”, said Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, who did not excuse the 27 for the spirit of an enlargement process that he considers “contorted” and that keeps them hostage to bilateral confrontations. The current attempt by the French rotating EU presidency to unblock the situation has failed, and the motion of censure lost by the Kiril Petkov government has not helped, although diplomatic sources remain hopeful and consider it feasible that Bulgaria to lift his veto, though not this week.
“The next few hours and days will be important to see if we can find an agreement between Northern Macedonia and Bulgaria,” Macron said. This long chapter shows in Borrell’s eyes, “that unanimity is a big problem in decision-making, so we have to think about how we make decisions in the EU because we can’t continue with a single country blocking for months and months,” he warned. he. The same is true of the approval of visa liberalization for Kosovo, which, like Bosnia and Herzegovina, has the status of a potential EU candidate.
For his part, “Kosovo met all the criteria for visa liberalization 4 years ago. Now it is the Member States that must support this process because it is an injustice to the Kosovo people, “said President Vjosa Osman, who closed the ranks with the granting of candidate status to Ukraine and Moldova.
“I see no harm in the Western Balkans if Ukraine and Moldova go further. On the contrary, I believe that by opening the door for them, the EU is sending a message that this is a geopolitical decision. I hope that as Ukraine and Moldova move forward, the EU understands that we too deserve to move forward because if the EU does not give a clear and unified signal to the Western Balkans, other evil actors will use that space, “he warned.
Therefore, the Albanian Prime Minister also received with optimism the express granting of the candidate status to Ukraine, although from their own experience they are aware that the road can be long. “It is good to give them the status of candidates, but I hope that the Ukrainians do not have too many illusions,” said Rama, who described the day as “historic” but in a negative way for the Western Balkans.