• The Twenty-seven still do not agree on the start of accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania due to Bulgaria’s veto

    • European leaders call the decision to grant EU candidate status to Ukraine and Moldova a “historic” moment

    “We are not where we should be with the Western Balkans. I am very disappointed with how things have been done, with only one country – alluding to Bulgaria – blocking the whole process. Things are not going well & rdquor ;. The head of European diplomacy, Joseph Borrellno beating around the bush during the summit between the leaders of the European Union and the countries of the Western Balkansprior to a European Council which has confirmed the EU candidate status of Ukraine and Moldova (Y Georgia once it meets the requirements demanded by Brussels). A decision more than “symbolic & rdquor; which sends a strong signal to the Kremlin: the future of these countries is not under the Russian influence but in the EU.

    “It is a historic agreement, a historic decision & rdquor ;, celebrated the president of the European Council, Charles Michael at a press conference after the decision. “This is a decisive moment and a good day for Europe”, added the President of the European Commission, 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 had not reached out to Ukraine and Moldova (…) We could not leave a vacuum strategic and geopolitical. It is the meaning of this European perspective and recognition of the candidate’s status”, added the President of France, Emmanuel Macronon a decision hastened by the Russian war.

    The accolade to Chisinau and kyiv, in record time by usual standards, comes just four months after the Ukrainian, Volodymyr Zelensky, presented the request – on the fourth day of the invasion of Russia – and on the same day that the Twenty-seven have committed themselves to reinvigorating the enlargement process. A promise that, for the moment, does not translate into concrete progress. What is more, the six Western Balkan countries have left Brussels disappointed and with empty hands after one four hour meeting tense and difficult, with many reproaches, with confrontation included between Macron and his Serbian counterpart, alexander vucic, according to diplomatic sources. A tug of war that has continued during a two-hour bilateral and that has led European leaders to start the European Council with a reflection on the Balkans and not Ukraine. According to Michel, they have promised to resolve the disputes between North Macedonia and Bulgaria and to speed up the process with Bosnia and Herzegovina.

    “There have been no concrete results but it has been a good discussion and I will never underestimate it. But if you ask me if North Macedonia and Albania have achieved a date (to start accession negotiations), they have not achieved it. If Pristina (Kosovo) has achieved visa liberalization, it has not achieved it. If Bosnia and Herzegovina has achieved candidate status, neither”, Vucic has summed up with resignation, whose country is the only one in the Balkans that has refused to apply the European sanctions against Russia for the war in Ukraine and that some colleagues accuse of playing both sides with Brussels and Moscow.

    Priority since 2003

    It was in the thessaloniki summit (Greece) when the EU promised the “European perspective” to these countries. Twenty years later, progress has been scant. Of the six countries – not counting Turkey whose chances of joining have sunk – only two, Serbia and Montenegrohave begun to negotiate some of the 33 chapters of the process with the European Commission, but with extreme slowness. north macedoniawhich had to change the country’s name to overcome Greece’s initial reluctance, and Albanian they obtained candidate status in 2005 and 2014 respectively, but are still crashing 17 and 8 years later against the Bulgarian wall.

    “It is a shame that a NATO country, Bulgaria, hijacks two other NATO countries, Albania and North Macedonia, in the middle of a hot war in the backyard of the EU and with 26 other countries sitting in a terrifying show of impotence & rdquor ;, has made the Albanian ugly, Edi Rama, which has not spared reproaches to the Twenty-seven for the spirit of an enlargement process that it considers “twisted & rdquor ;, which holds them hostage to bilateral confrontations. The attempt so far by the rotating presidency of the EU, which is occupied by France, to unblock the situation has fallen on deaf ears and the motion of censure lost by the Government of Kiril Petkovalthough diplomatic sources remain hopeful and consider it feasible for Bulgaria to lift its veto, although not this week.

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    “The next few hours and days will be important to see if we can find an agreement between North Macedonia and Bulgaria & rdquor ;, Macron explained. This long chapter shows in Borrell’s eyes, “that unanimity is a big problem to make decisions so we have We have to think about how we make decisions in the EU because we cannot continue with a single country blocking months and months & rdquor ;, he has warned. And the same thing happens with the approval of the liberalization of visas to Kosovothat like Bosnia and Herzegovina has the status of a potential EU candidate. “Kosovo has met all the criteria regarding visa liberalization 4 years ago. Now it is the Member States that have to support this process because it is an injustice for the people of Kosovo & rdquor ;, the president recalled Vjosa Osman which has closed ranks by granting candidate status to Ukraine and Moldova.

    “I don’t see any harm to the Western Balkans if Ukraine and Moldova move forward. On the contrary, I believe that by opening the door to them, the EU sends a message that this is a geopolitical decision. I hope that at the same time that Ukraine and Moldova move forward, the EU understands that we also deserve to move forward because if the EU does not give a unified and clear signal on the Western Balkans, there will be other evil actors that use that space & rdquor ;, he warned. The Albanian Prime Minister has also received with optimism the express granting of the status of candidate to Ukraine, although from their own experience they are aware that the journey may be long. “It is good to give them the status of candidates but I hope that the Ukrainians do not have many illusions about it & rdquor ;, has valued Rama who has defined the day as “historic & rdquor; but in the negative sense for the Western Balkans.