European Union soon to discuss enlargement procedure

TIRANA, Albania (AP) — The President of the European Council said on Friday the bloc will be holding intensive discussions in the coming weeks on how future enlargement should be managed.

Charles Michel, who was in the Albanian capital, Tirana, to meet with Prime Minister Edi Rama, said all member countries “are unanimous on one point — that the Western Balkans’ future should be toward Europe.”

The hopes of Albania and its neighbor North Macedonia to launch EU membership talks last year were blocked by French President Emmanuel Macron in October when he asked for a reform of the process for admitting countries to the 28-nation bloc.

The EU’s executive arm, the European Commission, had recommended starting the membership process last year.

Brussels is preparing a new methodology which, Michel said, will be open to discussion in the next few weeks.

The bloc's expansion over the years has complicated decision-making in the world's biggest trade bloc, and a kind of enlargement fatigue set in after 10 countries joined in 2004.

EU membership, however, has been a powerful driving force for democratic, political and economic reform in the Balkans.