The President of the European Council Charles Michel received Sunday evening in Brussels the leaders of the six countries of the Western Balkans candidates for accession to the EU for a “frank discussion”. This working dinner is intended to prepare for the Zagreb summit in May.

“I hope for a frank, intense and open discussion,” he announced in a brief intervention before welcoming his guests. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Foreign Minister Josep Borrell are also participating in this informal meeting, as is Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic, whose country holds the semi-annual presidency of the European Union.

“We will see how to deepen our partnership with these countries, consolidate their European prospects and give signals on the reforms to be carried out,” explained Charles Michel.

Landing in the EU will not be easy

“It is a question of initiating a political dialogue at the highest level with North Macedonia, Serbia, Kosovo, Albania, Montenegro and Bosnia, and of understanding their expectations before launching preparations for the summit of Zagreb “on May 17, said a European official. The talks will focus on the new, stricter membership procedure requested by France.

The European Commission has submitted a proposal to this effect, but it still needs to be discussed and approved unanimously by the Member States. “We all had difficulties landing in Brussels tonight (Editor’s note: because of the storm) and it is a kind of warning that to land (in the EU) will not be easy,” commented with humor the Prime Minister of Albania Edi Rama.

“We are very, very interested in discussing the new methodology” on the opening of negotiations, he said.

Fourth attempt

The Minister of Foreign Affairs of North Macedonia, who also struggled to land in Brussels, used the same metaphor as the Albanian Prime Minister. “We had three European councils during which we failed to land, but we hope to succeed on the fourth attempt,” said Nikola Dimitrov.

The hope is that this new procedure will be approved by the member states for the Zagreb summit and that the agreement will open negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania. They already started with Montenegro in 2012 and Serbia in 2014.

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