The European Commission said on April 17 that it was recommending that the Council of the EU decides to open accession negotiations with Macedonia and Albania, given the progress made by the two countries in pursuing reforms.
“Our enlargement policy continues to be a key engine driving reforms in the Western Balkans. It is modernising the region’s economies and societies, making it gradually a more prosperous and stable place which is also in the EU’s genuine interest,” EU’s enlargement commissioner Johannes Hahn said in a statement.
“The recommendations for the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Albania we issued today acknowledge the progress made. 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,” he said.
Macedonia has been an EU candidate country since 2005 and Albania since 2014. If the Council of the EU accepts the Commission’s recommendation to open accession talks, the two countries would join Turkey (which formally opened negotiations on joining the EU in 2005), Montenegro (2012) and Serbia (2014).
The European Commission pointed out that its recommendations were a “step forward in a long process is in line with merit-based approach and strict conditionality”.
Its statement also said that the EU itself “needs to be ready for new members – once they have met the conditions – including from an institutional and financial perspective. The Union must be stronger, more solid and more efficient before it can be bigger.”
As part of its annual enlargement package, the European Commission also published its assessments of the economic reform programmes for the Western Balkans and Turkey.
(Macedonia has made progress in several areas, including regional co-operation where it signed a good neighbourliness treaty with Bulgaria last year, pictured, as well as stepping up its efforts to resolve its long-standing name dispute with Greece. Photo: Macedonian prime minister Zoran Zaev, right, and his Bulgarian counterpart Boiko Borissov signing the treaty in August 2017.)