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Western Balkans leaders will attend EU summit, dropping boycott threats

After threatening to boycott the EU-Western Balkans summit, leaders of Serbia, Albania and North Macedonia will go to Brussels on Thursday after all.

In a statement, Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vučić, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama and North Macedonian Prime Minister Dimitar Kovačevski said that their decision to jointly participate was “another step towards progress but also a clear signal that despite numerous obstacles, we continue to make a constructive contribution on the path to European integration.”

Prior to walking back the threat, four officials had told POLITICO’s Brussels Playbook the leaders might not attend the summit, with Serbia and Albania showing solidarity against Bulgaria’s veto on EU accession talks for North Macedonia.

Bulgaria, which has been embroiled in a years-long dispute with North Macedonia over history, language and identity, has made several demands of its neighbor before it will agree to green-light EU accession talks, including that Skopje anchor the rights of a Bulgarian minority in the county in its constitution.

On Thursday morning, EU leaders are set to address the accession paths of Western Balkans countries at the summit, ahead of the European Council meeting which kicks off in the afternoon.

The row comes as the Bulgarian government faces a no-confidence vote Wednesday, just months after Prime Minister Kiril Petkov came to power in Sofia taking an unusually pro-NATO stance and vowing to tackle corruption in the country.

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