EU set to open accession talks with Albania and N. Macedonia

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times March 23, 2020 16:36

EU set to open accession talks with Albania and N. Macedonia

TIRANA, March 23 - The European Union is preparing to open membership talks with Albania and North Macedonia, according to a draft document by the 27 member states. The document is set to be finalized and formally adopted by the bloc's member states this week if it is approved.

The decision comes after Paris and the Hague eased their stance on the two countries' accession in the EU as Brussels recommended the opening of negotiation talks with Albania and North Macedonia once again in March. In regard to the General Affairs Counil's draft conclusions, diplomatic sources told Tirana Times that prior to an intergovernmental several conditions need to be met by Albania, including the adoption the electoral reform and continued implementation of the judicial reform, fighting organised crime and corruption as well as "tackling the phenomenon of unfounded asylum applications and ensuring repatriations."  

"France is OK with the methodology ... The situation is OK. I think we have a good chance [of adoption on Friday]," a diplomat told EUobserver on Thursday last week.

France had called for changes in the accession methodology last year, stating it should be more gradual, more controlled and include the expertise of the member states, in order for the progress to be achieved. Later in February, Brussels presented a new enlargement methodology which France supported.

However, the Dutch Parliament continues to stress on two other points recommended in the draft; during a discussion on Albania's EU integration progress, Dutch MPs requested that Albania follow the Venice Commission's recommendations which call for the functioning of the Constitutional Court and the High Court due to issues with the vetting process as well as the amendment of the media law. The Venice Commission is on its way to drafting a second opinion on the latter, the recommendations of which are also need to be implemented according to the Dutch Parliament.

Additionally, according to Reuters, Greece was still not on board with the decision prior to the weekend, but diplomatic sources claimed that approval was given "after the latest draft included stronger language on protecting Greek and other national minorities in Albania."

Although face-to-face meetings have been suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the decision is still expected to be formally adopted by the member states if there are no objections. Moreover, the current crisis will not alter the decision, according to EU foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell.

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times March 23, 2020 16:36