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Balkans

OVER NEGOTIATIONS 18. 06. 2019.   >>  18:30 0

OVER NEGOTIATIONS

EU at odds over Albania, North Macedonia joining

European Union states were at loggerheads on Monday over starting talks with Albania and North Macedonia to enter the bloc, while Cyprus threatened to veto any agreement on future enlargement unless the EU toughens its line on Turkish drilling.

EU ministers from the bloc’s 28 states meet in Luxembourg on Tuesday to discuss starting formal membership negotiations with the two Balkan countries a year after France and the Netherlands had blocked it, demanding more reforms in the fear of upsetting their parliaments and voters at home.

North Macedonia has since sealed a landmark deal with Greece, ending a decades-old name dispute and prompting a dozen EU states to publicly call to reward Skopje.

At stake is also the EU’s own credibility and the bloc’s willingness to act against what it sees as growing influence by Russia and other foreign powers in the region still scarred by wars fought along religious and ethnic lines in the 1990s.

But national diplomats preparing the Tuesday meeting failed to reach an agreement on a joint legal statement, which needs unanimous backing of all EU states to be approved.

“There has been a massive disagreement and it’s not sure at all that ministers tomorrow will be able to find an agreement,” an EU diplomat said.

Rifts persisted on the latest draft text, including where it would say that enlargement would also depend on the EU’s ability to reform itself and effectively integrate any new members.

The latest – but still disputed – draft, which was seen by Reuters, would push any decision on North Macedonia and Albania to October and after the German parliament is due to look into the matter.

The EU formally halted Turkey’s long-stalled membership bid over President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s sweeping crackdown on critics following a failed 2016 coup. While the relationship is tense, the EU still depends on Turkey on security issues, as well as migration.

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