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Thursday March 23rd, 2023 6:54PM

N Macedonia, Albania boost ties amid common push to join EU

By The Associated Press

SKOPJE, North Macedonia (AP) — The prime ministers of North Macedonia and Albania agreed Monday to boost their cooperation, as both Balkan neighbors work to realize their ambitions of one day joining the European Union.

During a meeting in North Macedonia's capital of Skopje, Dimitar Kovachevski and visiting Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama pledged to cooperate on their EU bids and on addressing the energy crisis triggered by Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

During Rama's visit, the two countries signed cooperation deals on energy and infrastructure projects.

“North Macedonia and Albania are a real example of how good neighborly relations are built," Kovachevski said. “This cooperation is of great importance, especially during the global economic and energy crisis, with serious challenges in providing electricity and food.”

The two neighbors started membership negotiations with the EU in July, in a process expected to take years.

North Macedonia's bid has been held up by disputes with its neighboring EU members Greece and Bulgaria, which have the power to block EU expansion as it requires unanimous approval by all member states. After a decades-old disagreement with Greece was finally settled, a new one with Bulgaria emerged.

To solve the latter dispute, Skopje has worked to amend its constitution to include a reference to an ethnic Bulgarian minority in North Macedonia. But it's unclear whether Kovachevski's government will be able to get enough lawmakers in Parliament to approve the amendment.

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