Albania and Northern Macedonia have “stepped up their work and delivered further tangible and sustainable results in the key areas,” the European Union’s Commissioner for Enlargement said in relation to Tirana and Skopje’s progress towards joining the EU.
“The Commission stands firmly by its recommendations to open accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia and I hope that the Member States will take a positive decision in the coming weeks,” Commissioner Oliver Várhelyi said.
The progress report, presented by the Commission on Monday, covers the period from June 2018 to the present. In it, the EU said that Albania has made progress in the fight against organised crime, including drug trafficking and cannabis cultivation, two areas in which Albania had been told it needed to make significant improvements before it enter accession talks with the bloc.
Albania’s efforts to reform its judiciary by putting in place measures to better scrutinise judges and prosecutors were also welcomed in the report.
In North Macedonia, reforms aimed at strengthening the independence of the judiciary and an intensification of the fight against organised crime were highlighted by the Commission.
The positive assessment comes after the EU failed to adopt a joint position on whether Brussels should open accession negotiations with the two countries at a European Council meeting in October last year.
A large majority of Member States were in agreement with the Commission’s recommendation that the EU should open negotiations, but France decided to block their progress until the EU’s enlargement policy was reformed. Denmark and the Netherlands concluded that the North Macedonia was ready to start negotiations, but not Albania.
Following the Paris requirements, the European Commission presented a proposal in early February to revise the procedures for future enlargements, bringing in more stringent rules, sanctions for setbacks and the possibility of reopening closed chapters in case of non-compliance by the candidate countries.
The question of whether to proceed with the accession negotiations will be on the agenda of the European Ministers meeting due to take place on March 24.