EC lays out its new accession process proposals

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times February 7, 2020 11:09

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  • “There are four principles on which the methodology is based: credibility, predictability, dynamism and stronger political direction. These are the principles on which we want to base our work, which we want to provide both our member states and our public and the countries of the Western Balkans,” said Harvelyi.

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TIRANA, Feb. 6 - The European Commission presented on Wednesday the new methodology for membership talks in the framework of the enlargement process mainly due to France's insistence following a lack of a decision whether Albania and Northern Macedonia should open accession talks last October.  

Enlargement Commissioner Oliver Harvelyi said in Brussels on Wednesday that the Commission stands by the positive recommendation it gave Tirana and Skopje and hopes that the new methodology and opening of talks for the two Balkan countries will be adopted during the Council's meeting in March.

Last October, at the European Council meeting, French President Emanuel Macron vetoed Albania and Northern Macedonia's hopes of opening accession talks, while calling for a review of the negotiation process and enlargement itself.

The EC was asked to prepare a new document, which was presented on Wednesday by Enlargement Commissioner Oliver Harvelyi.

"There are four principles on which the methodology is based: credibility, predictability, dynamism and stronger political direction. These are the principles on which we want to base our work, which we want to provide both our member states and our public and the countries of the Western Balkans," said Harvelyi.

The new methodology reviews many aspects of the negotiation process. On the technical side, the chapters up to the present are replaced in six blocks while talks for each group will be opened as a whole. Those for the first group, including the chapters on the rule of law, will be opened first and closed last and their progress will determine the overall pace of negotiations.

On the other hand, the methodology also provides for penalties.  

"We need to be able to stop the negotiation process when we see no progress is being made or a country is lagging behind, we will implement proportionate measures, which means we will make it clear that we can withdraw," Varhelyi explained.

Negotiations may be suspended for certain elements, or in more serious cases, suspended completely, and closed chapters may be reopened. Likewise, other financial benefits may be interrupted or withdrawn.

One element that could pose a threat to the countries in the negotiation process is the greater commitment of the member states themselves to the process, which could signal to the EC any serious stagnation or movement in the reform process, or even require the application of sanctions in the process regarding cases where they consider that the process is not moving in the right direction.

On the other hand, the methodology also provides incentives that may include accelerated integration and "gradual inclusion" into individual EU policies, EU market and EU programs, parallelly ensuring equal conditions and increasing funds and investments.

Varhelyi explained that "the previous recommendation of the Commission remains valid, as we still consider that talks with Albania and Northern Macedonia should be opened. We know that we need to update this recommendation, as both countries I have visited lately have shown progress and what I have seen is that they have gone on with the reforms, and this is a breakthrough that we have to put on the Council's table as an argument on the case that membership talks, along with the new methodology, can begin."

Ambassador Luigi Soreca, Head of EU Delegation to Albania, said that the European Commission's proposal on a revised methodology for the EU accession process is good news for the European future of Albania.

"While it drives the EU accession forward, it also will improve and encourage the delivery of reforms. 2020 is a key year for Albania," he said.  

The new methodology does not affect Serbia and Montenegro, which have long been involved in the negotiation process, in a way separating them from the rest of the region.

It remains to be seen how much this methodology will satisfy the demands of mainly France, which was the initiator of this process.

 

PM: "Albania is committed to its EU perspective"

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama said in Washington on Wednesday that Albania is committed to its EU membership path, although after the presentation of the new methodology for the organization he declined to make predictions about the timing of the opening of negotiations.

Rama spoke to the Atlantic Council during a visit to Washington, where he met with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other senior administration officials. According to media reports he talked about bilateral relations, the future of the Western Balkans region and the latest initiative against organized crime.

Although the new methodology presented for EU membership talks is being seen as an opportunity for Albania and Northern Macedonia to receive the invitation in March, Rama said he can not say with certainty if that will happen, because of the big number of countries involved.

"You never know what's going on with one of them, which can say 'no we're not ready for them'."

However, he added that Albania has met all the conditions and remains committed to that goal.

"We continue to do our job, just as we would if the talks were open. Therefore Albania itself is not wasting time," he said.

 

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times February 7, 2020 11:09