Brussels (Tirana Echo) – The European Commission has recommended the opening of accession talks for Albania and Macedonia who have asked to join the European Union. The recommendation will be discussed by the European Council in their upcoming June meeting.
The EU’s executive body which works closely with countries in the Balkans, said today in its annual Enlargement Package the Council should decide on accession negotiations with these two small Balkan countries in light of progress achieved as long as they continue to deepen current ambitious reforms undertaken.
The Commission has asked Macedonia to deliver on key reforms while it has urged Albania to deliver on the rule of law, and more specifically in the vetting of its judges and prosecutors as part of a wider ambitious justice reform.
To support this, the Commission would apply the reinforced approach for the negotiating chapters on judiciary and fundamental rights and justice, freedom and security.
Speaking during the presentation of the report together with Enlargement Commission Johannes hahn, the EU’s Foreign Policy Chief and Vice President of the Commission said: “A step forward today for the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Albania is a step forward for the entire Western Balkans region. Our strategic focus and engagement are delivering practical progress and benefits to the people in the region. The work on reforms and modernisation however needs to continue, in the interest of the partners and the European Union.“
Mogherini added that the EU will continue to support the Balkans through focused financial assistance.
Johannes Hahn Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations stated: “Our enlargement policy continues to be a key engine driving reforms in the Western Balkans. It’s an important step forward, but it is clear – and this counts for all Western Balkans countries: there are no shortcuts on the way to the EU. Important gaps remain.”
The European Union has been pushing Balkan countries to show tangible results in the rule of law, more specifically a more effective judiciary, effective fight against corruption and organized crime, efficient public administrations and stronger economies.
The announcement comes as during the same day French President Emmanuel Macron said that no further enlargement should be taking place until the EU block is reformed.
“I don’t want a Balkans that turns toward Turkey or Russia, but I don’t want a Europe that, functioning with difficulty at 28 and tomorrow as 27, would decide that we can continue to gallop off, to be tomorrow 30 or 32, with the same rules,” Macron said during a speech to the European Parliament this morning.
The statement reflects a growing Euro-skepticism across the block and fears by Germany’s Merkel and France’s Macron that a further enlargement would add to this skepticism.
The current EU enlargement agenda covers the partners of the Western Balkans and Turkey. Accession negotiations have been opened with candidate countries Montenegro (2012), Serbia (2014), Turkey (2005). The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is a candidate country since 2005 and Albania obtained candidate status in 2014. Bosnia and Herzegovina (application to join the EU submitted in February 2016) and Kosovo (Stabilisation and Association Agreement entered into force in April 2016) are potential candidates.
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