Foreign Affairs Committee Chair welcomes EU member states’ decision to open accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia.

Following the Council of Ministers’ decision to open accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia, the Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee David McAllister (EPP, DE) said:

“In the midst of a crisis, the EU has overcome divisions and demonstrated a genuine solidarity with our friends and partners. I welcome the belated decision to open accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia, while regretting that we had to wait till now for this important step.

Now is the time to continue our joint work under the enhanced enlargement methodology, and pursue together the broader goal of EU integration, namely that of ensuring peace, stability, solidarity and freedom in Europe. The EU must also ensure proper, flexible and efficient support under the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA).

In the context of the COVID-19 emergency, I welcome proposals on extending the EU Solidarity Fund to cover major health emergencies, while urging to open it to all the Western Balkan countries. We must take the necessary additional action to strengthen public health systems and mitigate the socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis in the Western Balkans.”

“Some good news in difficult times: EU affairs ministers gave their ok for accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia. Leaders should follow. @Europarl_EN has always supported the Western Balkan’s European future. We need strong bonds with our neighbours, now more than ever,” tweeter the President of the European Parliament David Sassoli

After the European Council had again failed to agree on opening EU accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia at the summit on 17-18 October 2019, the European Parliament reacted with the resolution expressing its disappointment and stressing that both countries have met the requirements to start membership negotiations.

In February, the European Commission published its revised enlargement methodology that should make the process of joining the EU smoother but also reversible if the candidate countries do not fulfil their obligations. The EU countries that opposed to the opening of negotiations also got further assurances that the fundamental areas such as judiciary, human rights, public administration, the rule of law, media freedom, governance and fight against corruption are being taken seriously.

The EPP Group wishes Albania and North Macedonia progress in their reforms

“The enlargement policy must continue to promote European values, stability and prosperity beyond current EU borders. I wish both Albania and North Macedonia a continued and speedy advancement on the path of the reforms, bringing their economies closer to European standards, for the benefit of their citizens and of the whole region”, said Michael Gahler MEP, EPP Group Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs, ahead of today’s decision of the EU Member States to open accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia.

He reiterates that the EPP Group has always supported a merit-based enlargement process, which mirrors the progress made by each candidate country. “Countries who work harder and achieve EU standards quicker should see their efforts rewarded. In case the progress turns out to be insufficient, negotiations should be halted or their final goal jointly redefined”, he insists.

Andrey Kovatchev, MEP and EPP Group Vice-Chair underlined that both countries have fulfilled all required criteria for starting negotiation talks, but the decision to move forward was blocked due to the scepticism of some EU Member States.

“By opening the accession talks, the European Union fulfils its commitment. Solidarity is fundamental, not only for our physical survival, but also to ensure the continuation of the European idea of unity”, said Kovatchev. “I would like to be able to congratulate, later today, both Albania and North Macedonia on their first step towards full European integration. Of course, future progress in the accession talks fully depends on the reforms taken-up by Skopje and Tirana, and their willingness to overcome obstacles in their reform process”, he concluded.

The European Greens have long called for the EU accession process

Albania has met all necessary criteria since 2018 and has carried out one of the most far-reaching judicial reforms to get to the point it is at now. North Macedonia has delivered tangible and sustainable results in key areas, such as the judicial reforms, high corruption cases, security reforms, and public administration reforms. North Macedonia has made extraordinary efforts to open the door to Europe by concluding bilateral agreements with Bulgaria and in particular the historic Prespa Agreement with Greece. Failing to start the accession process now will send the wrong message and will result in a weakening of the strong pro-European movements in the Western Balkans.

“The EU accession negotiations are a driving force for the further development of the rule of law in key areas such as media and press freedom, human rights and the fight against corruption. This is important not only for securing peace in the region, but also for the EU’s foreign and security policy.

The only reasonable course of action for the EU now is to answer the expectations of citizens in Albania and North Macedonia. These expectations are of a European future,” commented Thomas Waitz MEP, co-chair of the European Green Party.

After the EU Ministers for European Affairs have reached an agreement on Tuesday, the decision has still to be approved by EU Heads of states and governments on Thursday.