European Council expected to endorse accession talks this week, dates of first ICG not yet known

European Council meeting room; Photo: European Union

BRUSSELS – Following today’s decision of the General Affairs Council to support opening of accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania, the Heads of State and Government of the EU are expected to endorse the agreement as well. The Commission will start its work on negotiating framework for both countries, which also needs to be adopted by the Council before the first Intergovernmental Conferences take place.

According to Andreja Metelko-Zgombić, State Secretary For European Affairs Of Croatia, the country currently holding the rotating Council Presidency, written conclusions of the Council’s decision are expected tomorrow, while the Presidents and the Prime Ministers of EU Member States are expected to endorse the agreement later this week.

Enlargement Commissioner Olivér Várhely, who also participated in a video press conference following the Council’s meeting, stated that the negotiating framework for both countries will be drafted by the Commission soon and released with the annual enlargement package in June.

“At this stage, there are no specific dates for the first Intergovernmental Conferences – the times can be different. It will all depend from the fulfillment of the conditions for both countries”, Várhely said.

Both participants of the conference stressed that EU is maintaining the principle of own merits of the candidate countries, which means that every country will advance according to its own achievements.

Metelko-Zgombić stressed the significance of the new enlargement methodology, which was proposed by the Commission in February.

“Thanks to the newly proposed methodology, we are sure that it will make more effective, and based on the political decision which we made today, we can expect the negotiations with these two countries to start”, she said.

She reminded that all the meetings were postponed, and on the proposal of the Croatian Council Presidency, the Council was able to change its rules of procedure. Written procedure for adopting the Council’s conclusions will now take place.

“This is a historic decision for the two countries and the region, but it is also good news for the EU – we reaffirm the European perspective with the WB6 countries. It is good news for the EU to be focused on the decisions that are important for it and reach strategic decisions under difficult conditions”, Metelko-Zgombić said.

Commissioner Várhely agreed that this is a very challenging time, and therefore Europe has shown its determination to achieve goals it has set out.

“When we have taken over from the previous Commission, things did not look good as it does today. I am very glad that we have managed to convinced the Member States that there is a delivery on the part of these two countries”, Várhely said.

European Council failed to reach a positive decision on the opening of accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania in June 2018, June 2019 and October 2019. All of the negative decisions were preceded by the lack of agreement in the General Affairs Council as well.