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North Macedonia and Albania moving closer to EU accession

27.09.2019 - Article

Yesterday, the Bundestag voted in favour of opening EU accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania. This sends an important message, for the Western Balkans is a key region for Europe.

Ohrid, North Macedonia
Ohrid, North Macedonia© picture-alliance/dpa

All EU member states have to agree before EU accession negotiations can be opened with the two countries. With the Bundestag decision, Germany has indicated its readiness – as have almost all EU member states. However, some countries have still to agree. France, the Netherlands and Denmark have not yet publicly stated their position. The European Council can then adopt this decision at its meeting on 17/18 October. The negotiations can subsequently begin.

I am confident that the conditional approach suggested by the German Bundestag will convince others in the EU to agree to the start of accession negotiations. (Foreign Minister Maas)

Conditionality: Providing incentives for reform

Accession negotiations involve the countries concerned gradually adopting all the EU’s rules and regulations, known as the acquis. The EU focuses in particular on the rule of law and democracy. Only if the countries meet certain standards can they become EU member states. This conditionality is an effective foreign policy instrument in the EU which creates incentives for a democratic transformation based on the rule of law.

The vote underlines the Western Balkans’ importance for the EU. At the same time, it spells out that reforms are rewarded. (Foreign Minister Maas)

Much achieved but challenges remain

In the case of Albania, the Bundestag decision stipulates that further conditions have to be met before Germany can approve the next step in the process. This includes progress in the five key areas of judicial reform, reform of the public administration, the fight against organised crime, corruption and rigorous protection of human rights.

As for North Macedonia, the European Commission stated in its last report that the country has made considerable progress and implemented key measures. In particular, the historic resolution of the dispute concerning the country’s name was a milestone.

Population in favour of EU accession

Northern Albania
Northern Albania© picture alliance / ZB

Albania and North Macedonia have been endeavouring to move closer to the EU for many years now. Albania submitted its accession application in 2009, while North Macedonia submitted its as early as 2004. The overwhelming majority of people in both countries are in favour of accession. The commencement of accession negotiations offers Europe an opportunity to forge closer ties with these countries.

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