EU gives green light to opening of accession talks with Albania and N. Macedonia

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times March 24, 2020 16:02

EU gives green light to opening of accession talks with Albania and N. Macedonia

TIRANA, March 24 - The General Affairs Council of the EU gave a green light to the opening of EU membership negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania in Tuesday’s video-conference.

The Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement, Oliver Varhelyi, took to twitter to announce the decision and congratulate both countries, adding that "this also sends a loud and clear message to Western Balkans: your future is in EU.” The German Minister of State for Europe also conveyed his congratulations via Twitter, writing that it is a "win-win for the EU and the Western Balkans."

After the announcement, the Democratic Party leader Lulzim Basha welcomed the decision and added that it is in Albania's hands to fulfill the conditions in order to go through with the opening of the negotiations. President of Albania, Ilir Meta also welcomed the decision and called upon all stakeholders not to lose time in fulfilling the conditions prior to the first inter-governmental conference.  Meanwhile, the Foreign Affairs Minister of North Macedonia expressed gratitude for the efforts which were made to reach the decision, adding that "EU’s decision in this dire time is a symbol of its true strength."

Local experts point out that the decision salvages the credibility of the Union, gives impetus to reforms and at last brings some semblance of good news to a region that has been hit hard by the current crisis and has no access to the resources of the Union yet.

"The message that there is still a future for us in the EU brings optimism and resilience in the most need of times. I hope that this will also open new access points to the valuable resources of the Union in this dire times," Alba Cela, Executive Director of the Albanian Institute for International Studies, a prominent think tank in Tirana told Tirana Times.

Earlier in March, the European Commission reaffirmed its recommendation for opening the accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia. The Commission in Brussels drafted an interim report, which was expected to be the new evaluation basis by member states at the European Council.

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, stating that it should be more gradual, more controlled and include the expertise of the member states, in order for the progress to be achieved.

With the new methodology, France seemed ready to remove its veto, allowing the start of the EU membership talks with Albania and North Macedonia. Two weeks later, at the Munich Security conference, French president Emmanuel Macron made it clear that France's position would 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.

Diplomatic sources told Tirana Times on Monday, that prior to an intergovernmental meeting, 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."  

“It is in the interests of the EU, Albania and North Macedonia to start the accession negotiations" said ETUC and PERC General Secretary, Luca Visentini to Tirana Times. "The European Commission says that both countries fulfill the conditions to start the process. Opening negotiations can prompt both countries to better address the challenges they face, in particular regarding decent work, respect of the law, corruption, low wages and high levels of informal work."

Moreover, the Dutch Parliament continues to stress on two other recommended points; 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 need to be implemented as well, according to the Dutch Parliament.

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times March 24, 2020 16:02