Opening accession talks with EU
On July 18, North Macedonia and Albania were given the “green light” in accession negotiations to the European Union, which could indicate potential integration. However, both states still have a long way to go in the preparations for accession negotiations.
Before the accession negotiations begin, the candidate country and the European Commission will establish a so-called “pre-accession strategy”, which leads to both sides drawing up a framework for negotiations. However, negotiations cannot start until the EU Member States unanimously approves the mandate.
The slow accession process of North Macedonia and Albania – and other Western Balkan countries, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia – has seen accusations of double standards emerging in the EU.
Both Western Balkan countries have done the work required of them as candidate countries to strengthen the rule of law, create the tools to fight corruption effectively and protect the independence of the media and civil society. However, despite Brussels reaffirmation a couple of times, there has been no progress on the EU’s part.
At the June EU-Western Balkans summit, regional leaders expressed their frustration at the lack of progress. What is more, France, which held the rotating six-month presidency of the Council of the EU until June 30, worked behind the scenes to put forward a proposal to break Bulgaria’s – North Macedonia stall.
Albania, which submitted its own EU membership application in 2009, was primarily seen as collateral damage of the North Macedonia – Bulgaria feud, as its bid was linked to that of its eastern neighbour. That meant it could only advance in the process in tandem with North Macedonia. With the French proposal, this has been changed, and both countries were de facto decoupled.
Both states still have a long way to go in preparing for the accession negotiations. However, North Macedonia, together with Albania, believes that the process will be swift. For the region, the opening of the talks is seen as a “historic moment” that could help speed up the accession of other Western Balkan countries to the European Union.