Updated with reaction from Serbia
Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama confirmed on Wednesday (22 June) that he will attend Thursday’s EU summit that will focus on enlargement, after announcing on Tuesday that he may boycott it due to Bulgaria’s veto over North Macedonia that is also holding up Tirana.
The veto over language, historical, and cultural disputes has relegated the two Western Balkan neighbours to the EU waiting room for several years, despite having fulfilled the conditions for accession to progress to the next stage.
On Tuesday, Serbian Prime Minister Aleksander Vučić said he and his Albanian and Macedonian counterparts would announce the following day if they would attend the summit. The summit is set to place EU enlargement high on the agenda, including Ukraine, Moldova, and the Western Balkans.
Rama took to Twitter to confirm attendance, stating that “just heard right now that something is moving today in Bulgaria. Too early to be optimistic and too little to change the part of the tomorrow speech where Bulgaria is criticised as a country which has kidnapped two NATO countries while there is a hot war at Europe’s borders.”
Calls from GERB
Rama referred to a call from the leader of the Bulgarian opposition party GERB, former prime minister Boyko Borissov, who is partly responsible for initiating the veto, for it to be lifted.
Borissov said the 59 MPs from his party GERB would vote in favour of a cabinet decision to lift the veto based on a proposal of the French Presidency.
The move was welcomed by EU Enlargement Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi, who extended his thanks and called it historic.
“We thank the leader of opposition Boyko Borissov for making a historic decision for Europe and for North Macedonia to accept negotiation based on France’s proposal allowing to proceed with opening accession negotiations.”
“We expect [Bulgaria’s] government making necessary proposals to Parliament today so Europe can move forward,” he added.
The chief of cabinet of Prime Minister Kiril Petkov said that the government was not going to approve lifting the veto before a sitting of the foreign affairs committee and an eventual vote in plenary.
The French proposal would see accession negotiations opened with the demands of Sofia included in the discussions. The Commission would act as a guarantor throughout the process.
Hopes to be heard
Rama also tweeted that he hopes to be heard at the summit on the idea of a New European Political Community, proposed by French President Emmanuel Macron, which he supports.
Additionally, Rama said the matter of Open Balkan, a regional initiative, will also be on their agenda as it “takes forward the spirit of Europe and on our kidnapping from Bulgaria that destroys it.”
The Open Balkan is an initiative facilitating the free movement of people, trade, and business between Serbia, Albania and North Macedonia. However, Kosovo, Montenegro, and Bosnia and Herzegovina have refused to join in so far.
Meanwhile, in Sofia, it became clear that the opposition is determined to put down Petkov’s government later in the afternoon.
A vote to elect a new speaker of the 240-seat Bulgarian parliament could not take place because of a lack of quorum as all the 125 opposition MPs did not show up.
In the plenary at 7.30 pm, deputies will vote on a no-confidence motion against Petkov’s government tabled by the opposition.
Petkov’s cabinet lost its majority when its coalition partner, the populist “There is such a people”, left officially over disagreements concerning the budget and policy vis-à-vis Skopje.
Serbia says yes
Shortly after Rama’s announcement, Serbian media reported a statement from the government confirming attendance.
“After detailed and comprehensive consultations with associates and members of governments, the leaders of the three countries decided to go to the summit together, agreeing on principles that will be the main backbone of talks with numerous EU officials,” it read.
The statement continued, “We are aware that the topics we will discuss at the summit will not be easy, but our participation will once again show and confirm our commitment to the European path of Serbia, Albania, and North Macedonia.”
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic and Georgi Gotev]