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Von der Leyen: EU must keep promises to Albania and North Macedonia on accession

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Ursula von der Leyen was speaking in Zagreb, Croatia
Ursula von der Leyen was speaking in Zagreb, Croatia   -   Copyright  (AP Photo/Darko Bandic)   -   Darko Bandic
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The 'door is open' for Albania and North Macedonia to join the European Union under current rules, Ursula von ver Leyen insisted on Friday at the launch of Croatia's presidency.

"We have to deliver and keep our promises," she said — a contrasting stance to French President Emmanuel Macron who had opposed opening talks for the Balkan nations until the process of accession was reformed.

The European Commission president also announced a donor conference on February 17 to raise funds for reconstruction in Albania following the country's devastating deadly earthquake in November.

Croatia's turn at the rotating presidency of the EU has rekindled discussions over whether to expand the bloc.

Albania and North Macedonia were meant to begin discussions over formal membership last year, but three EU countries blocked the talks at an EU summit last October.

Albania and North Macedonia submitted their application to join the bloc in 2009 and 2004 respectively and both countries have since taken steps to align themselves with EU standards.

At the summit, then Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker called the bloc's failure to agree on starting membership talks a "grave, historic error".

RELATED: Juncker hits out as North Macedonia and Albania have EU bids blocked

The debacle resulted in the resignation of North Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev who has now called snap elections in his country.

Zaev told Euronews shortly after accession talks were blocked that he was afraid that nationalism could return to the Balkans.