Brussels – Albania and North Macedonia, on Monday completed the necessary reforms to start membership talks with the EU, its executive said after the process was thwarted in 2019.
The European Commission has long judged Skopje and Tirana to ready for accession negotiations after undertaking democratic reforms and, in North Macedonia’s case, changing the country’s name to settle a dispute with neighbouring Greece.
In October, however, France in particular put up last-minute opposition to the move, insisting on further reforms and an overhaul of the EU accession process.
According to the EU Enlargement Commissioner, Oliver Varhelyi, updated assessments of the two membership hopefuls, showed that the countries stepped up their work and delivered further tangible and sustainable results in key areas.
According to the reports, North Macedonia, which is generally considered to be further along the reform path, has taken significant steps to strengthen judicial independence, while showing an improved track record on corruption and organised crime.
Meanwhile, Albania has made progress on judicial reforms and in vetting judges and prosecutors, as well as in the fight against corruption and crime, including when it comes to cannabis cultivation and hard drugs trafficking.
“The commission stands firmly by its recommendations to open accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia and I hope that the member states will take a positive decision in the coming weeks,” Varhelyi said.
The commission proposed an overhaul of the EU accession process in January.
However, EU officials hope it paved the way for EU leaders to unblock the start of membership talks at their regular March summit.