EU Commission once again recommends opening accession talks with Albania

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times March 2, 2020 15:38

EU Commission once again recommends opening accession talks with Albania

TIRANA, March 2 - The European Commission reaffirmed on Monday its recommendation for opening the accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia. The Commission in Brussels has drafted an interim report, which is expected to be the new evaluation basis by member states at the European Council meeting later this month, which will likely discuss the topic of opening accession talks. During the same meeting is expected the adoption of the new methodology introduced last month.


“In the light of the significant progress achieved and the fulfillment of the conditions unanimously agreed by the Council, in June 2018, the Commission recommended in its 2019 enlargement package that the Council opens the accession negotiations with Albania. Overall, Albania has stepped up its efforts and achieved further tangible and sustainable results in the key areas identified in the June 2018 Council conclusions. As a result, the basis for opening the accession talks with Albania remain valuable”, the report states.


“Albania made progress on justice reform and the fight against corruption and organized crime, while North Macedonia had taken “significant steps” to strengthen the independence of its judiciary, EU Commissioner for Enlargement Oliver Várhelyi said.


At the European Council's meeting in October, French president Emanuel Macron vetoed the opening of the accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia and called for a review of the negotiation process and enlargement itself. 


The European Commission was asked to prepare a new document, which was presented last week in Brussels by Harvelyi.


With the new methodology, France seems ready to remove its veto, allowing the start of the EU membership talks with Albania and North Macedonia. 


Two weeks ago, at the Munich Security conference, French president Emmanuel Macron made it clear that France's position will depend on Commission's report. 


"We are all waiting for the Commission's report on the process for both countries in March. So we have to look at what the Commission is going to say about the expected progress in Albania and North Macedonia on these issues, and depending on that, and on the pre-conditions that I had set, if the results are positive and there is trust, it will be possible for us to make a decision to open the talks ”, said Macron in Munich.


EU’s new methodology 


The EU announced in February that the new methodology was based on four principles: the accession process should be "credible", "more dynamic", "guided by a stronger political steer" and "predictable."


On the first principle, commissioner Várhelyi said that the Western Balkans countries needed to deliver more credibility, especially on the rule of the law.


The Commissioner emphasized that EU member states would be able to monitor and review the accession process more strongly than before.


Negotiations will focus on six dynamic thematic clusters, the EU official continued, with the timeframe of each cluster preferably limited to one year. Yet, he added, fundamental rights and the rule of law will take a central role, opening first and closing last.


The revised methodology is only one of the three tracks of the Commission's new strategy. Várhelyi said it would be followed up with the opening of negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia.


He expressed the hope these would start "ahead of the Western Balkans summit" set to take place in Zagreb in May 2020.


The third track involves an investment plan for the economic development of the region.


As Várhelyi presented the Commission's new plans to MEPs, the largest political groups at the EU Parliament expressed their support for the methodology.


The European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen greeted the “good message” to Albania and North Macedonia, which both were highly disappointed when they were turned down for opening talks in October. 


Commissioner Varhelyi said enlargement was “geo-strategic”, a reference to a view that the EU cannot stem its waning global influence without stabilizing the Balkans.


“We continue to have full enlargement as a goal,” he told a news conference after publishing the European Commission reforms, which were reported by Reuters on Tuesday.


“EU membership is offered to the entire region, including Kosovo.”


Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, a move not recognized by five of the EU’s 27 member states.


Albania has been an EU candidate country since 2014. Even though the European Commission issued an unconditional recommendation to open accession negotiations in 2018, Albania, along with North Macedonia, has not got a date for the start of accession negotiations yet. 


Upon appointment, new the EU Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement, Olivér Várhelyi has been stressing the importance of “re-establishing a credible EU perspective for the Western Balkans”. 

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times March 2, 2020 15:38