EU members to launch talks with Albania, North Macedonia

BRUSSELS (AP) — European Union leaders gave Albania and North Macedonia the greenlight Thursday to begin EU membership talks, ending a long series of setbacks and disappointments for the two Balkans nations’ quest to join.

No date was set for the start of the membership negotiations, which can take several years.

Albania and North Macedonia were meant to begin accession talks last year, but French President Emmanuel Macron blocked the move and said he would continue to do so until the process for allowing countries into the 27-nation bloc had been reformed.

Macron did so despite warnings that further delays to the countries' membership efforts could undermine stability in the volatile Balkans. North Macedonia’s leader reacted by stepping down and calling early parliamentary elections.

The European Commission later revised the accession process for North Macedonia and Albania to respond to Macron’s objections and other questions raised by the Netherlands.