Netherlands now backs EU bids of Albania, North Macedonia

The cabinet and coalition parties in the Dutch House of Representatives are now in favour of having both Balkan countries, who hope to start membership negotiations, join the European Union, Dutch media NL Times reports. [Shutterstock/Laura Balvers]

The Dutch government now backs the EU accession bids of Albania and North Macedonia despite blocking negotiations for both Balkan countries with France and Denmark in 2019.

The cabinet and coalition parties in the Dutch House of Representatives are now in favour of having both Balkan countries, who hope to start membership negotiations, join the European Union, Dutch media NL Times reports.

Skopje’s accession bid is currently held up by a veto from Bulgaria over shared language and history, while Tirana’s EU progress is tied to that of North Macedonia.

Back in May, the European Parliament urged the European Council to begin negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia on EU membership, noting “the geostrategic context of relations with Russia and its aggression against Ukraine.”

Prime Minister Mark Rutte is now in favour of Albania and North Macedonia’s EU accession bids, Dutch broadcaster De Telegraaf reports. In 2018, he said Albania and North Macedonia would ​​”weaken the entire Union”, citing corruption and a lack of press freedom. In 2019, the Dutch, together with France and Denmark, blocked the negotiations for both countries.

This is despite media freedom falling significantly in Albania and corruption, particularly at a high level, remaining a significant issue.

Rutte is now trying to gather support across the bloc. Back in May, he and German chancellor Olaf Scholz discussed ​​accession of North Macedonia and Albania during a press conference in The Hague.

“We are all trying together in the European Union to do everything in our power to ensure that the Western Balkans remain stable and that we find a solution for the problems that exist there, especially regarding North Macedonia and Bulgaria,” Rutte said at the time.

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