Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Awaiting for the date

Let’s hope that the start of negotiations will finally begin after many years of waiting, but the Governments of Albania and North Macedonia must be accountable in two aspects.  Initially, they must be serious about the process, because in the end the EU will not be tolerant as in the former and second, citizens’ expectations should be managed and explained that the process will be challenging and long. The last one is important in order to avoid the despair that may increase the already large influx of citizens leaving the country.

Author: Sefer Selimi Jr.

As the dates, 15 October and 17 October are approaching, the day when the decision is to be made whether to open or not the negotiations between the European Union, North Macedonia and Albania, anxiety is increasingly raised by the outcome of the European Council meeting. The joint letter of main EU institution leaders seeking to clearly set a date for the two states,  raised hopes for a positive outcome, but the still unclear position and reluctance of some states to say the final YES leaves room for concern in these two candidate countries.

In the case of North Macedonia, the chances seem more realistic to have a clear date for the start of negotiations, or otherwise known as the first intergovernmental meeting. Most likely, this will happen during the Croatian presidency, sometime in late March or early April next year. In the case of Albania, things are more complex due to the internal political crisis that the country is going through and most likely, the start of negotiations will be conditional and even without a clearly defined date.

It is almost certain that the negotiation process will undergo changes from the current methodology and will be significantly more rigorous including clear deadlines, specific objectives and cross-chapters in the dynamics of opening and closing new chapters. This happens, in the first place, in order to mitigate the resistance of some of the member states that are not satisfied with the current situation and secondly, from the lessons learned from the current negotiation process with Serbia and Montenegro which are not producing satisfactory results, especially in the area of the rule of law and the war against corruption.

Internal dynamics – At the moment for North Macedonia the internal dynamics are more favorable given that a large part of the reforms have become part of the domestic legislation, while their implementation continues to face various challenges. The greatest danger comes from the fear of a return to nationalist policies and the sabotage of agreements reached with Greece and Bulgaria.

For Albania, things are much more complex due to the internal political crisis and the 9 conditions imposed by the German Bundestag mainly dealing with the revival of higher judicial institutions and the functioning of those emerging from judicial reform, but also with concrete results from the war against corruption.

Regional dynamics – In practice so far, EU enlargement has been made into a regional ‘package’ by accepting states in blocs. That is where the cramp of the differences between some of the Union’s most important member states lie. While some insist on individual approaches towards Albania and North Macedonia, the rest insist that opening of the negotiations to be with both countries at the same time, in order to maintain regional dynamics and stability in the Western Balkans. The latter is strongly supported by the two neighboring states, Bulgaria and Greece

Challenge Chapter – Although next week may bring positive news for North Macedonia and / or Albania, membership negotiations will be extremely difficult and likely long. In the case of North Macedonia, those that opened the door to integration will be the most serious obstacles to overcome. In the final chapter, a chapter covering all other aspects that are not in the standard negotiation chapters will integrate points from both agreements signed with Bulgaria and Greece. Both Governments of these states even though strongly support the opening of negotiations, have sent serious threats to Skopje by using a veto, if North Macedonia does not comply to the same.

Let’s hope that the start of negotiations will finally begin after many years of waiting, but the Governments of Albania and North Macedonia must be accountable in two aspects.  Initially, they must be serious about the process, because in the end the EU will not be tolerant as in the former and second, citizens’ expectations should be managed and explained that the process will be challenging and long. The last one is important in order to avoid the despair that may increase the already large influx of citizens leaving the country. /KDP

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