Albania seeks to pursue EU membership separately from N. Macedonia

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Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama gestures during a news conference at Tirana Business Park, in Tirana, Albania, September 14, 2021. REUTERS/Florion Goga/File Photo

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PRISTINA, April 7 (Reuters) - Albania will ask the European Union if it can pursue its membership bid separately from its neighbour North Macedonia which continues to face a Bulgarian veto, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama said on Thursday.

North Macedonia and Albania were meant to launch membership talks with the bloc at the end of 2020, but Bulgaria blocked the opening of formal talks due to a dispute over history and language with North Macedonia.

The EU has grouped both countriestogether in their accession bid. Speaking in Tirana, Rama said he was not optimistic that Bulgaria will lift its veto soon.

"Albania cannot wait anymore until two neighbours resolve their quarrel," said Rama, adding Albania had good relations with both states. "Our political course on this issue will completely change." Rama made these comments while presenting a national survey with more than half a million respondents, which showed 67 percent wanted the two countries' membership path to diverge. Skopje experienced a similar veto for decades by Greece. It eventually changed its name in 2018 from Macedonia to North Macedonia to guarantee its entry into NATO and proceed on its EU path.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said last week that talks on Albania's and North Macedonia's EU accession needed to start as soon as possible because any delay would make the Western Balkans vulnerable to outside influence.

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Reporting by Fatos Bytyci Editing by Alexandra Hudson

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