Amid general pessimism caused by covid-19 crisis, the last few days brought some good news for the Western Balkans, as the European Union (EU) green-lighted the launch of accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia. The long awaited and overdue decision is an indisputable step towards fulfilling the EU aspirations of the Western Balkans, a decision that will definitely inject some optimism in the region. On the other side, such decision heralds the fact that the EU can take strategic decisions, even in the midst of a big crisis, although it did not set a date for the formal start of negotiations, and adds additional conditions for Albania. Another positive signal for the entire region, was the raising of the North Macedonian flag in front of NATO´s Headquarters in Brussels, officially becoming the 30th member of the Alliance. It rewarded the success of the historic Prespa Agreement that solved the 27-year-old name dispute between Athens and Skopje, an example of demonstrated political courage in the region.
2020 is the first year of delivery for the EU’s climate ambitions. The European Commission has set itself a goal to tackle climate change with unprecedented urgency and ambition through its European Green Deal plan, at the heart of which is the objective to make the EU climate neutral by 2050. Yet as the EU produces only about 9% of the global greenhouse gas emissions, it is absolutely vital that these ambitions have a strong external element to them as well. The transition must thus be built upon realistic targets and pragmatic diplomatic approach to credibly project the EU’s normative power.