Brussels: EU leaders deadlock over membership talks for North Macedonia and Albania
Diplomatic sources say that EU leaders struggled past midnight in a tense debate to reach common conclusions in a bland statement offering encouragement to the candidate countries, and yet postponing a formal decision for accession talks.
Although majority of EU countries believe that accession negotiations should begin with both Albania and Northern Macedonia, a group of countries including the Netherlands, Denmark and Spain are in favor of opening negotiations only with Skopje, said the sources at the meeting.
At the same time, France, Italy and Germany reject the idea of separating the accession bids within Tirana and Skopje talks.
France has cited procedural reasons for blocking the two countries, arguing that the EU's entire accession system is in need of an overhaul.
European Council sources say that first of all, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark are trying to harmonize a text that would postpone Albania and Northern Macedonia's accession negotiations for 2020, but also try to "encourage" the two countries.
The discussion on enlargement of the EU came at the end of the first day of a European Council leaders' summit, as the first topic on the agenda, immediately after adopting Brexit deal.
After EU ministers tried and failed to reach a deal on the enlargement issue for Skoplje and Tirana at a meeting of the General Affairs Council earlier this week, Tusk put the matter on the agenda for the leaders' summit.
The Netherlands, currently presiding EU, supported a potential compromise that would have allowed talks to begin with North Macedonia while putting Albania on hold, but in the end, leaders also could not agree on separating the bids by the two countries.
France remained firm in its decision that...