Brussels, 23 June 2022 (dpa/MIA) — Albania’s Prime Minister Edi Rama described the stalled accession process for Albania and North Macedonia to join the European Union a ‘disgrace.’ Speaking ahead of the EU-Western Balkans high level meeting in Brussels, Rama said Bulgaria’s ultimatums to unblock the process were shameful, especially considering the raging war on Europe’s doorstep. All three countries are NATO members.
North Macedonia and Albania applied for EU membership in 2004 and 2009 respectively. North Macedonia received candidate status in 2005, and Albania in 2014.
The two countries have since been waiting to enter formal accession talks, with Bulgaria most recently blocking progress in a dispute linked to the region’s national identity, history and languages.
Rama stressed that Albania did not feel like a victim, however, because he said there would always be some Bulgaria “here or there” that could block the process.
He said that in the current situation, the Open Balkans initiative — founded by Albania, North Macedonia and Serbia to promote the free movement of people, goods, services and capital in the region — was the right solution for regional cooperation and that it remained open to all who wanted to join it.
At the same time, Albania would not be changing its EU course, Rama said. “We will continue on the European path because there is no other alternative,” he said.
Regardless of the outcome of the EU Summit, he said Albania would continue implementing European reforms not because Brussels demanded them but because Albanian children needed them.
“What we need to do is continue building Europe at home,” he said, adding that it may be a new day for Europe, but not for Bulgaria.
“It is a shame that a NATO country, Bulgaria, kidnaps two other NATO countries, Albania and North Macedonia, in the midst of a hot war in Europe’s backyard with 26 other countries sitting still in a scary show of impotence,” Rama said.
“It’s a good thing to give [Ukraine] candidate status, but I hope the Ukrainian people will not make many illusions about it,” Rama said when asked about Ukraine’s aspiration to join the bloc.