Albania may go it alone in bid to launch EU membership talks

TIRANA, Albania (AP) — Albania’s prime minister said Thursday that his nation may go it alone in its efforts to launch European Union membership talks, turning its back on a stalled joint bid with North Macedonia.

Albania and North Macedonia have both fulfilled the required criteria for launching talks to join the 27-nation bloc. But in 2020, Bulgaria vetoed the start of formal EU accession talks for North Macedonia, arguing that Skopje had failed to honor parts of a 2017 friendship deal, particularly regarding shared history and language.

Since the two countries’ bids are linked and launching accession talks requires unanimous approval from EU nations, the veto has also prevented Albania from moving forward.

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama said that Albania will ask for a separation from Skopje if Bulgaria continues to block the launch of talks.

“Albania cannot expect longer that the two neighbors resolve their quarrel,” he said. “Our course in that direction will fully change.”

Western Balkan countries are at different stages on the path to EU membership.

While Serbia and Montenegro have launched full membership negotiations, Bosnia and Kosovo have undertaken only the first step in the process.

During a visit to North Macedonia last month, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell reaffirmed the bloc’s desire to integrate the Western Balkans, saying it’s a “strategic priority.”

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