Brussels, June 24 (IANS) There is still no date set for the start of accession talks to the European Union (EU) for candidate countries Albania and the Republic of North Macedonia, politicians said following an EU-Western Balkan leaders meeting.
"Today, Serbia was very supportive to opening negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania, as many countries were, but once again nothing happened," Xinhua news agency quoted Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic as saying at a press conference late Thursday after the meeting.
"It's not just a formal demand, request, plea. It's something that is a necessity, because both countries did everything in accordance with European regulations," he said.
Albanian and North Macedonian leaders expressed their frustrations.
"Nice place, nice people, nice words, nice pictures, and just imagine how much nicer it could be if nice promises were followed by nice delivery," Prime Minister of Albania Edi Rama said in a tweet.
"North Macedonia has been a candidate member for almost 18 years. We signed the stabilization and association agreement exactly 21 years ago," said Prime Minister of North Macedonia Dimitar Kovachevski.
"In March 2020, the European Council made a decision for an unconditional start of negotiations between North Macedonia and the European Union. But here we are today, and the negotiations have not started yet," he said.
North Macedonia and Albania have been awaiting their first intergovernmental meeting with the EU since March 2020.
However, Bulgaria has been using its veto, as the country insists on changes to North Macedonia's constitution to recognise the Bulgarian minority there, and on removing "hate speech" from textbooks and resolve disputes over language and history, before accession talks could begin.
North Macedonia is committed to find a solution and open to dialogue, Kovachevski said.
A proposal made by the French presidency of the European Council, including the Bulgarian demands, was rejected in its current form by Kovacesvski.
"If during the French presidency, we reach an understanding about our position, we are ready to actively take part in the process to start the negotiations," he said.
Rama said he understood Bulgaria might have concerns to be addressed, but that he "abhors" the way the country was trying to solve this by blocking progress with two NATO countries.
"On North Macedonia, work continues towards swiftly finding a mutually acceptable solution," tweeted Charles Michel, President of the European Council.
Leaders of the three countries underlined the importance of European integration in the light of the current Russia-Ukraine conflict.
Meanwhile, they expressed their commitment to continue to work hard on their EU path.
They also welcomed French President Emmanuel Macron's proposal of a European Political Community.
However, it should not become a substitute for full EU membership, the leaders added.
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