Balkan Hopefuls Await European Council Decision on Talks

As the European Council of Ministers is set to convene on Tuesday in Luxembourg, North Macedonia and Albania fear they will not get what they hoped for - a date for a start to their EU accession talks.

Due to a number of still sceptical EU member states, the most that North Macedonia and Albania can hope now for is further encouragement for reforms and a postponement of a concrete decision on a start to talks till autumn, some observers said.

"It is certain that there won't be any significant decision" at the Council of Ministers, said Simonida Kacarska, from the Skopje-based European Policy Institute, an NGO.

"The best scenario would be if the European Council gives a green light to the Commission to start working on a negotiation framework, but at the moment that sounds an optimistic option and we cannot say whether it may come true," Kacarska added.

Ahead of the meeting, Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn on Monday called on enlargement sceptical countries to reconsider and deliver a firm date for North Macedonia at least.

Hahn said the credibility of the EU enlargement process, and of Balkan reforms, were both in jeopardy.

"My message to sceptical member states: the EU accession process must be based on credibility & reliability. If a partner country like North Macedonia delivers evident achievements, #EU has to deliver, too. We cannot afford the risk that the reform-process is slowed down or halted," Hahn twitted.

The European Commission in May recommended the EU to open membership talks with both North Macedonia and Albania - but the left a decision on the date to the European Council in June.

However, earlier this month, the German Bundestag failed to take any decision on supporting a start date for...

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