President Stevo Pendarovski clarified his comments that Macedonia must “decouple” from Albania in the EU accession process, after he was called out for this statement by Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, who reminded Pendarovski that it was ethnic Albanian voters who got him elected. Pendarovski said that he spoke with Rama and that he supports Albania’s intertwined EU accession.

Yesterday we communicated with Prime Minister of Albania Edi Rama. Our neighbours are important. Albania’s EU integration road is as important as ours because they are intertwined. The discussion with Rama was about the interests of the citizens of North Macedonia and Albania, for both countries to get a date for opening EU accession talks. This is important for our interests and equally for the whole region, Pendarovski said via Twitter.

Macedonian politicians fear that they will lose the promised date to open EU accession talks because Brussels sees the country as part of a group with Albania, and the higher level of political tensions in Albania is making this country a difficult sell for opening of accession talks. Albanian commentators, but Zoran Zaev as well, have warned that locking Albania out of the EU accession process may revive the Greater Albania project.

Rama responded to Pendarovski’s latest statement by praising him before the voters in the Macedonian majority Pustec municipality, and contrasted him to his political opponent, the Albanian President Ilir Meta.

My good friend President Pendarovski is part of the efforts to persuade the EU member states and the European Council that accession talks should begin. The President of Albania works for the opposite, he works to create doubt that Albania doesn’t deserve accession talks, Rama said.