Von der Leyen says talks with Tirana and Skopje by 2021

European Commission president starts tour of Western Balkans

28 September, 17:04

    TIRANA - European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen traveled on an official visit to Albania on Tuesday, the first stop on her tour of the Western Balkans, and said she is "truly determined to ensure that our first Intergovernmental Conference is held, so that we can start accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia before the end of the year".
    The European Commission proposed the start of talks with Tirana and Skopje last March, but the proposal was blocked by Bulgaria's veto against North Macedonia, which Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama called "absurd".
    Rama said he is "no longer betting on a date for the intergovernmental conference".
    "We did what was asked. Talks or no talks, chapters closed or not, this is a question for the European Council, or rather, a single country that wakes up angry with a candidate country, and then holds another hostage," he said.
    However, Rama said he was grateful to the European Union for the support offered to cope with the consequences of the devastating earthquake of November 26, 2019.
    And it was in the courtyard of a brand-new school built with European funds about 20 kilometers south of Tirana where he held his press conference with von der Leyen.
    Albania has also received EU support for overcoming the pandemic, with over 450,000 doses of vaccines and 230 million euros in grants and funding.
    "But now it is also important to look forward to the future. And we need to look at investments that will ensure a lasting recovery, a strong economy", said von der Leyen, speaking of the economic and investment plan for the Western Balkans, with nine billion euros on the table to finance large development projects.
    "We already started this year with 500 million euros available.
    And I am very pleased to announce that we will propose 600 million euros more for this year. So let's try to make this plan a success, a joint success with the right projects," she said.

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