EU leaders have made a serious mistake in refusing to start membership talks with North Macedonia and Albania, the bloc’s two most senior officials warned on Friday.

The 28 government chiefs were deadlocked after seven hours of bitter haggling at a Brussels summit, with France leading a handful of countries blocking the opening of negotiations.

“It’s not a failure, it’s a mistake. I feel really embarrassed,” EU Council President Donald Tusk told reporters.

“Both countries, they passed their exams, I can’t say this about our member states.”

The European Commission has said both countries have done enough to at least begin talks, but France has reservations about both and Albania also faces opposition from Denmark and the Netherlands.

Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker said he too was “very disappointed” with the summit failure.

“It’s a major historic mistake and I hope it will only be temporary and won’t become engraved in the collective memory as a historic mistake,” he said. (AFP)