The Italian leader visited Albania’s capital, Tirana, this week and said he was enthusiastic about the country’s entry into the 28-nation bloc. But French President Emmanuel Macron blocked the move, claiming both Albania and north Macedonia should not be allowed to enter as the EU’s enlargement process is in need of an overhaul.
Rebuking Macron’s decision PM Conte said: “They have waited ages to enter Europe.
“Their aspiration is to enter Europe.
“I’m so sorry. I am very sorry. I tried it.
“We wanted open minds, not to make a decision right now.
“I am very close to the Albanian community of Northern Macedonia.
“They have done great efforts. Italy will always be close to them.”
North Macedonia and Albania want to start negotiations with the bloc after having been candidate countries since 2005 and 2014 respectively.
EU leaders have long said if the former Yugoslav republic changed its name from “Macedonia” to end a decades-long dispute with Greece, its application could go ahead.
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But there was more widespread opposition on the European Council to opening talks with Albania, which some leaders argue has not made enough progress on reforms, including to the rule of law.
Leaders from Denmark and the Netherlands have joined Macron in his concerns about Albania entering the bloc.
Hitting back at this, Chancellor of Austria Brigitte Bierlein said: “It is very regretful.
“I and many other states have worked hard for the beginning of the accession talks.
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“North Macedonia and Albania have completely fulfilled the requirements of the EU and would therefore have a claim on membership talks.
“This failed due to some states.
“I have already talked to both PMs of the two states and told them I was disappointed about it and received feedback from them that they are also very disappointed and I assured them that we continue to support them.
“For the solidarity of the EU and the security in the area this is not a good sign and it has been talked about since June 2018 to start accession talks.
“It has already taken a long time and as I said, north Macedonia has solved the fight about the name and established a new constitution.
“Albania has also fulfilled many of the requirements and it is about time that we start accession negotiations .”
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