Albania, N Macedonia chances for EU membership talks ‘not good’

BRUSSELS (AFP) – The chances of an European Union (EU) summit agreeing to allow Albania and North Macedonia to start talks on joining the EU are minimal, the next European Commission chief said.

“Unfortunately the signs here are not good that there will be an agreement today, and I regret that very much,” Ursula von der Leyen told reporters as she arrived for the summit in Brussels.

France is leading opposition to expanding the EU into the Balkans, but there are concerns in the bloc that hesitation could leave a vacuum there filled by Russia or China.

Senior EU leaders and all member states barring France believe North Macedonia has made sufficient efforts for accession talks to start – including changing its name from Macedonia to appease Greece.

Albania by contrast has less support, with the Netherlands and Denmark joining France in voicing serious reservations about the progress it has made on reforms.