Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok reiterated early Tuesday his country’s position that Macedonia is more prepared than Albania for the start of EU accession negotiations.

Ahead of the start of the EU Council meeting in Luxembourg where the start of accession negotiations with Skopje and Tirana will be discussed, Blok said the Netherlands’ position was that each country should be assessed according to the fulfillment criteria.

Both countries have made great efforts. Regarding North Macedonia, we think that another important step should be taken, namely the law on public prosecution. If that condition is met, we think accession negotiations should start. In terms of Albania, however, we think much work needs to be done and is not yet ready for the start of negotiations, Blok said.

Asked whether the public prosecution law is a condition for starting negotiations, Blok did not give a precise answer. He said that in any case such law should be implemented because the rule of law is a key criterion for EU accession.

Asked whether a bad signal would be sent to the region if the start of negotiations was not approved and whether it means the EU is changing its membership criteria, Blok said there was no change in the criteria.

The main signal that is being sent is that once the candidate country meets the criteria that are known, accession negotiations can begin. There’s nothing new in that. It’s just and fair, the Dutch foreign minister said.