RIGA – Senior officials from the Baltic states and Poland on March 5 released a joint statement voicing their full backing for the European Union membership hopes of countries in the Western Balkans, reports Latvian Public Broadcasting.
The Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland, as well as the Estonian Undersecretary for European Affairs, have finished a joint three-day visit to North Macedonia and Albania today.
“We strongly hope that the Council will agree this month to start the accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia, following the European Commission’s renewed positive recommendations and assessment of both countries’ reform efforts as well as the Commission’s Communication on enhancing the accession process. This decision is needed to reaffirm the commitment and credibility of the EU enlargement policy”, it is stressed in the joint statement.
The officials note they share the common belief that the EU enlargement policy contributes to the stability, security, and prosperity both in the Western Balkan region and Europe as a whole, emphasizing that European integration of the Western Balkan countries should thus remain a strategic political objective for the EU.
“The speed of the accession negotiations should be determined solely by the progress in reform areas set out by the Commission and the Council, adherence to the EU values and the Common Foreign and Security Policy alignment”, conclude the officials.
After Albania and North Macedonia did not get a date for the start of accession negotiations last year, the new European Commission officials have multiply reassured that enlargement is among the top priorities during this mandate. The decision to open negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania is expected around the time of the EU-Western Balkans Summit in Zagreb, which is taking place in May.