European Western Balkans
European Integration

EP groups welcome the decision to open accession negotiations with N. Macedonia and Albania

EP building in Brussels; Photo: European Parliament

BRUSSELS – General Affairs Council of the EU gave a green light to opening of EU accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania in today’s video-conference, a decision which was welcomed by the European Parliament (EP) groups.

European People’s Party: By opening the accession talks, the EU fulfils its commitment

The enlargement policy must continue to promote European values, stability and prosperity beyond current EU borders, the Group of the EPP stated in a press release.

“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”, stated Michael Gahler MEP, EPP Group Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs.

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 underlines 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.

MEP Vladimír Bilčík, Chair of the EU-Montenegro SAPC and EP’s Standing Rapporteur for Serbia, highlighted that today’s green light to opening accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania is a strong signal about Europe’s commitment to their partners and NATO Allies.

“The decision comes later than I would have preferred but at the same time I am glad to see that just in times of a great crisis as we are confronting the ongoing spread of COVID-19, the European Union is able to make important strategic decisions and underscore the European perspective for the countries in the Western Balkans. It will be crucial to keep the political focus and momentum on the reform agenda in both North Macedonia and Albania”, stated Bilčík.

Socialists and Democrats: Both countries fully deserved this decision

The leader of the S&D Iratxe García Pérez stressed that this is a great day for the people of Albania, North Macedonia and the European Union, as it confirms that enlargement policy, one of the most successful EU policies, is still alive.

“Both countries fully deserved this decision. As it was repeatedly stated by the European Commission, they fulfilled all criteria and did what they were asked to do in order to move closer to the EU.”

S&D vice-president responsible for foreign affairs, Kati Piri, said The Socialists and Democrats have always been great advocates for a European future for the Western Balkans.

“And we will remain so, but the pace of the enlargement process must be merit-based, and will depend on the countries themselves. The S&Ds will be paying special attention to the rule of law and the respect of fundamental rights, and the freedom of media”, underlines Piri.

Tonino Picula, S&D coordinator in the committee on foreign affairs, and the EP rapporteur on enlargement in the Western Balkans, stated that today’s decision is good news, although he is of the opinion that adopted additional conditions were not necessary in case of Albania.

“The decision by the Ministers of European Affairs is a good and first step in rebuilding trust between the EU and its closest neighbors, which I hope will join us in the Union after meeting the criteria. This time, I reiterate that the most important criteria a candidate must meet are the rule of law, respect for all human rights and freedom of the media,” concluded Picula.

Tanja Fajon, the Chair of the European Parliament Delegation to EU-Serbia SAPC stated that there is a long way ahead, “but we will make it together”. “We need positive news and we need each other more than ever”.

Renew Europe: Europe can take decisions in times of crisis

MEP Ilhan Kyuchyuk, EP’ standing rapporteur on North Macedonia and Renew Europe Group’s vice coordinator in AFET Committee, stated that the decision on North Macedonia and Albania shows that Europe can take decisions in times of crisis.

“The European Council finally succeeded to give an answer to the expectations of the Western Balkan countries and their citizens, who have been waiting long for something positive to happen. This act is even more significant now. Not because we overcame the disappointment of the Council’s decision in October, but because Europe and the world are currently in an unprecedented situation”, Kyuchyuk pointed out.

Following the political agreement, the formal decision will be taken by written procedure by the 27 permanent representatives of the member states to the EU.

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