Commission recommends opening accession talks with Albania, North Macedonia

NEWS 29.05.2019 15:52
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The European Commission on Wednesday recommended opening accession talks with two Western Balkan countries, Albania and North Macedonia, saying they had “embraced the opportunity and delivered on reforms”. But this will need to be approved by the member states.

“In light of the significant progress achieved and the relevant conditions being met, the Commission recommended today that the Council now opens accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia,” the EU executive said in its annual progress report on enlargement.

The report deals with six Western Balkan countries (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia) and Turkey.

Turkey opened membership talks in 2005, which have stalled completely in recent years as the country backtracked on its democratic record under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The Commission noted no progress in the past year.

“Turkey has continued to move further away from the European Union, with serious backsliding in the areas of the rule of law and fundamental rights… In June 2018 the Council noted unanimously that Turkey’s accession negotiations have therefore effectively come to a standstill and no further chapters can be considered for opening or closing. The underlying facts leading to this assessment still hold.”

On the whole, the Commission said the Western Balkan countries “have made concrete progress and demonstrated the commitment to the European perspective, even if the overall uptake of reforms varies”.

Message to the member states

Speaking to the press, foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini commended, in particular, North Macedonia for having solved its long-standing “name issue” with Greece and resolved all problems with all neighbours, and Albania, for its justice reform under which judges are vetted.

“When merit is assessed as positive, it needs to be acknowledged. Failure to recognise and respond to objective progress, I believe and we believe, will damage the EU’s credibility throughout the region and beyond. Not rewarding historic achievements and substantial reforms would undermine stability and discourage further reforms,” she said.

The sad truth, however, is that there is little appetite for further EU enlargement among member countries after Croatia joined in 2013.

The publication of the progress reports was delayed for after the EU elections, mostly at the insistence of France, the country that has taken the lead in putting the brakes on what many have called “the most successful project in EU history”, its reunification.