Following a meeting with Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called on the European Union to open negotiations with Albania and Northern Macedonia to join the bloc.
The call from the German leader comes following a meeting with the Albanian prime minister in Berlin earlier this week with Chancellor Merkel saying that the countries in the Western Balkan region should be considered for membership of the EU, Euronews reports.
“For the German government, I want to say that we clearly stand by the EU perspective of Albania and the entire western Balkans,” Merkel said, and added: “We want these countries to be brought closer to the European Union.”
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“Above all, we want us to reach an agreement at the upcoming European Council in March to open accession negotiations with Albania and also with North Macedonia. Both countries have achieved a great deal,” she said.
Previous attempts to engage in accession negotiations with Northern Macedonia and Albania stalled last year when several member states, including France, choose to reject the beginning of talks.
French President Emmanuel Macron commented on the issue last October, saying: “This is a dispute about vision. The enlargement rules need reform. We mustn’t open accession talks with North Macedonia before Albania — there must be a majority for talks with both, together. We should do more to help those countries develop, not just make pledges.”
The Greek government had also previously rejected the idea of Northern Macedonia joining the EU when it was still named the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) due to Greek opposition to the country using the name Macedonia.
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In February of last year, the country voted to change its name to Northern Macedonia, ending the long-standing dispute with Greece.
Chancellor Merkel’s push for EU enlargement is also supported by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen who said last November she wanted to see talks resumed with Northern Macedonia and Albania.