Austria wants swift EU accession talks with Albania and Macedonia amid growing euro skepticism

Austria's Chancellor Sebastian Kurz
Austria's Chancellor Sebastian Kurz

Tirana, Albania | May 28 (Tirana Echo) – Austria’s Federal Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (ÖVP) has insisted on swift EU accession negotiations with Albania and Macedonia, after a recent European Commission report recommended the opening of negotiations with the two small Balkan countries.

Kurz has spoken out after reports of France, Germany and the Netherlands unhappy with a further enlargement of the already troubled block, reconfirming the traditional Austrian line of firm support for the European integration of a region which lags behind Europe’s older states.

If you want to avoid conflicts in our neighborhood in the Western Balkans and help stabilize them, you must credibly offer the countries in the region a European perspective,” said the conservative politician of the “Welt am Sonntag” newspaper.

Austria supports Serbia and Montenegro “in progress on accession”. The EU is already conducting admission negotiations with both countries. “And with Albania and Macedonia, we should quickly open accession talks,” said Kurz.

Amid a rise of populist and euro skepticism across the old continent, heads of EU member states are due to meet in June in Brussels to decide on formally opening accession talks with Albania and Macedonia, following the recommendation from the Commission. However, several leaders face populist anger at home if they commit to a further enlargement of the union.

During a recent EU-Western Balkans summit in Bulgaria’s capital Sofia, European Union leaders failed to commit to a date for the Union’s further enlargement, sending western Balkans leaders back home in utter disappointment. Instead it simply repeated the same ‘European perspective’ slogan from the previous such summit of Thessaloniki 15 years ago.

Recalling the Thessaloniki Summit of 2003, the EU reaffirms its unequivocal support for the European perspective of the Western Balkans. Building on the progress achieved so far, the Western Balkans partners have recommitted to the European perspective as their firm strategic choice, to reinforcing their efforts and mutual support.” – read the joint declaration after the EU summit in Sofia.

Despite resistance from France’s President Macron and Germany’s Chancellor Merkel, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has maintained a steady line in support of opening accession talks with Western Balkan countries, citing Russian and Turkish influences looming over the region.

The worse the prospects for accession, the greater the opportunities for influence for countries such as Turkey or Russia,” warned Kurz, while Albania’s Prime Minister Edi Rama warned in a recent Reuters interview that putting an end to the EU’s perspective could trigger “many bad developments“.

The European Council will convene in June to decide on whether it should formally open accession talks with Albania and Macedonia, whose leaders hope to bring home something positive to their tired and frustrated local voters.

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