SKOPJE, North Macedonia (AP) – A senior US diplomat for Europe says delays in EU membership talks with Albania and North Macedonia are helping opponents in the West to do advance their geopolitical ambitions.
“There is a lot of work to be done,” said Matthew Palmer, deputy assistant secretary of state for Europe and Eurasia, at a conference Thursday in the resort town of Ohrid in North Macedonia.
“As our geopolitical competitors aggressively seek to undermine the credibility of the US and the EU, and the region itself doubts the integrity of our collective engagement, the stakes for actually moving this work forward continue to rise. “
He did not name the opponents, but US officials have repeatedly referred to Russia’s competing influence in the region.
North Macedonia’s effort to join the EU was delayed by a dispute with neighboring Bulgaria over the origin of the country’s language – a feud that also indirectly undermined Albania’s pressure to join the block.
The Balkan countries which have not yet joined the EU are at different stages of the accession process, Serbia and Montenegro being the most advanced. Palmer urged the region’s leaders to continue the tough reforms required for eventual membership.
“They must work constructively to resolve difficult political issues internally and with their neighbors, to strengthen their democracies and multi-ethnic justice system, and move forward towards a more prosperous and integrated future,” he said.
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