European Western Balkans

EUobserver: Albania and Macedonia to start EU accession talks

European flags in front of EP Building in Strasbourg; Photo: European Union

TIRANA – Albania and Macedonia should start EU accession talks, but human rights abuses mean Turkey negotiations should stay on hold, the European Commission noted, EUobserver writes.

“In light of progress achieved, the European Commission recommends that accession negotiations be opened with Albania”, the commission is to say in its yearly enlargement report, due to be published on Tuesday, 17 April, according to a draft seen by EUobserver.

The draft used the same formula for Macedonia.

The recommendation is the first one ever for Albania. It comes 15 years after it signed Stabilisation and Association Agreement and some 10 years after it has joined the NATO.

In 2005, the European Commission noted that Macedonia was ready to start accession talks. However, the member states never agreed to do so because Greece vetoed it on grounds that Macedonia’s name represented a territorial claim to a neighbouring Greek region of the same name.

But Tuesday’s recommendation comes amid EU hopes that Skopje and Athens are close to finding a solution, enabling the Europan Council to actually open talks with Macedonia later this year.

It also comes amid a new Commission Strategy to speed up enlargement process.

Reformist ‘frontrunners’, such as Serbia and Montenegro, should be able to join the EU in 2025, it said in a EC strategy paper in February, amid preparations for a special Western Balkans summit in Sofia in May.

EU foreign ministers will also discuss the Western Balkans at a meeting in Luxembourg on Monday. They will restate their “commitment to facilitate dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo” on normalising relations and discuss security issues in the region, an EU diplomat said.

They might also discuss how to refer to Kosovo, which is not recognised by five EU states, in the Sofia summit declaration.

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