Ministerial Council debate in Luxembourg starts

In a heated atmosphere and environment of deep divisions, EU FMs have for three hours been trying to prepare the conclusions for Macedonia and for Albania, Kanal 5 TV reported at 3 pm on Tuesday. Neither yesterday’s Council, at a level of Ambassadors, nor the one today, at a level of Ministers, hasn’t revealed whether the country will get a clear signal that it will get a date for negotiations in the autumn. Though Macedonia was praised on Tuesday, no minister dared predict the outcome. According to Austrian FM Alexander Schallenberg, Macedonia did all it needed to do and Albania, too, did its homework. As he added, if the EU now shrugs and doesn’t act positively, that will be a catastrophic signal to the region. “Our position is that we should agree on the beginning of accession negotiations as soon as possible. We are talking about the beginning of long and difficult negotiations, but the credibility of EU and stabilisation of democracy, rule of law and media freedom is also on the line” German Minister for Europe Michael Roth was quoted as saying by European Western Balkans. Sources from Brussels have said that the draft conclusions have underwent several changes in the 24-hour period – positive, direct and essential ones, adding that three versions are in play, the last and worst of which is not mentioning the timeframe at all so that a decision that is yet to be adopted isn’t prejudged. l. In light of the limited time available and the importance of the matter, the Council will revert to the issue with a view to reaching a clear and substantive decision as soon as possible and no later than:


  1. September 2019
  2. October 2019
  3. Without a date being mentioned


Asked whether the stalling regarding the date issue for Macedonia could cause disappointment, the Romanian Minister Delegate for European Affairs, George Ciamba, whose country holds the EU Presidency, said “we are not disappointed” as long as Macedonia wasn’t disappointed. “And as long as we keep a constructive approach and, you know, we are not going to give something that doesn’t make sense, you know, that is close enough and has the right language, I think we should not be disappointed. It’s important that we keep the momentum from Prespes,” he said. France and the Netherlands are still being pointed to as the most sceptical countries, while Monday’s meeting, according to Reuters, saw Cyprus complicate matters. “Complicating matters further, Cyprus has threatened to block the whole text on the future prospects of countries willing to join the EU – a group that also includes Kosovo, Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina in the Balkans. Diplomats said Nicosia was demanding a tougher EU line on Turkey over offshore drilling in eastern Mediterranean, which the Greek Cypriot government says violates its exclusive commercial area,” it was said, among other things, in the text. Italian Foreign Minister Enzo Moavero Milanesi said Nicosia’s remarks couldn’t affect enlargement. The most optimistic scenario for Macedonia was published by EURACTIV. According to it, Member States are ready to accept the country, but not its western neighbour.