The key issue that arose during the visit of European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to Macedonia and Albania is whether Albania should be decoupled from Macedonia and allowed to advance on its EU path alone. Von der Leyen was asked about the issue this morning, in Tirana, and gave a comment that was seen as not being opposed to decoupling.

I want to re-emphasize: you have done your bit. This is very important. We have asked a lot of you and you have delivered. We will do everything to overcome the hurdles at the moment being. That should not hinder the enlargement process. I very much hope that we can start with the first ICG before the end of the year. That is my goal, the Commission President said when asked about the Bulgarian blockade that is delaying Macedonia’s EU accession talks, and also blocks Albania – since the two countries remain coupled. Albania seems eager to go ahead even if it means Macedonia would be left behind – while in Macedonia fears grow that this would lead to instability, especially among the Albanian minority.

Hours later in Skopje, Von der Leyen was asked by an Albanian language TV station if the two countries should be decoupled if the dispute with Bulgaria is not resolved.

It is very important to focus on delivering now. This is my main focus. I want both countries, (North) Macedonia and Albania to start the inter-governmental conference process, by the end of the year. This is my whole concentration now on that issue, Von der Leyen said, before warning about the danger of instability in the region between Serbia and Kosovo.

Bulgaria still has no political Government that could negotiate with Macedonia, but there should be more clarity there after the early general and presidential elections in November.