Foreign Minister Heiko Maas issued the following statement today (24 March) on the General Affairs Council agreeing to open EU accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia:
Europe stands by its word. Albania and North Macedonia will now take a further step along their path to EU membership. This recognition of their reform efforts is long overdue. It also encourages them to decisively continue down this road.
Both countries have achieved a great deal with a view to strengthening their justice systems and fighting organised crime and corruption. By concluding the Prespa agreement with Greece and signing a friendship treaty with Bulgaria, North Macedonia has taken historic steps towards reconciliation in the region.
Stable and strong democracies in the Western Balkans based on the rule of law are in our vital strategic interest. Also, pursuit of the European model of peace, freedom and prosperity remains the best way to safeguard stability in our neighbourhood.
Especially now, these countries are in need of support and solidarity from the European Union. Their weak health care systems are no match for this virus, if they act alone. We must fight this together – because the virus’ spread does not stop at borders.
The Ministers for European Affairs of the EU member states agreed today during a videoconference in General Affairs Council format to open accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania. The European Commission was tasked with drawing up a Negotiating Framework. It will do so based on a new enlargement methodology that focuses even more strongly on democracy and the rule of law. Before negotiations can begin, Albania must undertake additional specific reform measures. This is in line with a Bundestag decision of 26 September 2019. Today’s political agreement must still be formally confirmed in writing by EU member states.
The Commission already recommended in 2018 that accession negotiations be taken up with Albania and North Macedonia. On 2 March 2020, the Commission presented a report on the progress both countries have made in their reform efforts and reaffirmed its recommendation. The opening of accession negotiations is the beginning of a process that will take several years. Only if Albania and North Macedonia implement an ambitious reform agenda will they ultimately also obtain EU membership.