Italian president backs North Macedonia’s EU membership bid

September 9, 2022 GMT
Italian President Sergio Mattarella, left, is welcomed by North Macedonia's President Stevo Pendarovski, at the presidential palace in Skopje, North Macedonia, on Friday, Sept. 9, 2022. Italian President Mattarella is on a two-day official visit to North Macedonia. (AP Photo/Boris Grdanoski)
Italian President Sergio Mattarella, left, is welcomed by North Macedonia's President Stevo Pendarovski, at the presidential palace in Skopje, North Macedonia, on Friday, Sept. 9, 2022. Italian President Mattarella is on a two-day official visit to North Macedonia. (AP Photo/Boris Grdanoski)
Italian President Sergio Mattarella, left, is welcomed by North Macedonia's President Stevo Pendarovski, at the presidential palace in Skopje, North Macedonia, on Friday, Sept. 9, 2022. Italian President Mattarella is on a two-day official visit to North Macedonia. (AP Photo/Boris Grdanoski)
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Italian President Sergio Mattarella, left, is welcomed by North Macedonia's President Stevo Pendarovski, at the presidential palace in Skopje, North Macedonia, on Friday, Sept. 9, 2022. Italian President Mattarella is on a two-day official visit to North Macedonia. (AP Photo/Boris Grdanoski)
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Italian President Sergio Mattarella, left, is welcomed by North Macedonia's President Stevo Pendarovski, at the presidential palace in Skopje, North Macedonia, on Friday, Sept. 9, 2022. Italian President Mattarella is on a two-day official visit to North Macedonia. (AP Photo/Boris Grdanoski)

SKOPJE, North Macedonia (AP) — Italian president Sergio Mattarella on Friday joined a long list of officials voicing support for North Macedonia joining the European Union together with other Western Balkan countries.

“Without the entry of the countries from the Western Balkans ... unification of the continent will not be completed,” Mattarella said at a press conference in Skopje with North Macedonia’s President Stevo Pendarovski.

Six Western Balkan nations are at different stages on their paths toward membership of the 27-member EU. North Macedonia and Albania started membership negotiations in July, while Serbia and Montenegro have made the greatest progress.

For all, the process — seen as important in diminishing Russian influence in the region — is expected to take years.

Mattarella paid an official visit to North Macedonia Friday for talks with the country’s leadership, and addressed lawmakers in Parliament.