"We saw today a confirmation that the European Union, as a whole, backs the European perspective of the Western Balkans ... Nevertheless, in this light, it is unfortunate that minority of member states were not able to support the commission's clear proposal to open accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia already today," European Commissioner for Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn told reporters after the General Affairs Council meeting.
According to the Council's conclusions adopted following the meeting, the council will return to the issue of opening accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia no later than October.
"In light of the limited time available and the importance of the matter, the Council will revert to the issue with a view to reaching a clear and substantive decision as soon as possible and no later than October 2019," the document said.
This comes after EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini positively assessed last month the countries' progress and recommended that the council open accession talks. Prior to that, 29 NATO countries and Macedonia signed the accession protocol in Brussels.
In June 2018, the EU Council ruled that before accession talks Albania and North Macedonia needed to carry out reforms in crucial areas.
The European Union has granted four Western Balkan states the status of an official EU candidate — Albania, North Macedonia, Serbia, and Montenegro. Each of them now is to negotiate the terms of accession and align their domestic legislation with EU law before joining.