North Macedonia welcome sign, 13 Feb 19

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North Macedonia’s relations with Greece at the moment are a lot better

Albania and North Macedonia have made good progress in the direction of EU membership and Brussels ought to open accession talks with them, the EU Fee says.

Each have official “candidate” standing of their EU membership bids. The final nation to affix was Croatia, in 2013.

Since then, leaders in Austria, France and the Netherlands have expressed warning about additional EU enlargement.

The Fee, steering the talks, stated “severe backsliding” in Turkey meant that its bid remained frozen.

The query of additional EU enlargement is prone to come up at an EU summit subsequent month, however a choice on opening accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia could also be delayed till an EU international ministers’ assembly in July.

See the Commission’s recommendations in full here.

EU international affairs chief Federica Mogherini stated the previous yr had seen “constructive change” within the Balkans, and “Albania and North Macedonia have proven a robust dedication to advance on the EU path”.

EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn stated each nations had “delivered on reforms”.

“North Macedonia not solely continued its bold reform agenda, but additionally reached a historic settlement with Greece, resolving a 27-year-old identify dispute, an instance for your complete area and past,” he stated.

“Albania is pursuing profound reforms, specifically a significant transformation of its justice system.”

In January Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras accomplished a deal to finish Greece’s long-running identify row with neighbouring North Macedonia, which he visited in April.

Greece had all the time objected to its neighbour’s designation as “Macedonia”, due to the northern Greek province of the identical identify.

The Fee sees its technique of integration with Balkan nations as a instrument for stabilisation, in a area that was convulsed by battle within the 1990s.

Nations in search of EU membership have to satisfy an extended record of necessities, together with: justice reform, rule of legislation, anti-corruption measures, functioning democratic establishments, media freedom and financial competitiveness.

There are three different candidate nations within the queue to affix: Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey. All three have opened accession negotiations, however Turkey’s are at a standstill.

The Fee stated Turkey below President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had “continued to maneuver additional away from the European Union”, noting that rule of legislation, human rights and political checks and balances had all been undermined.

Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo are potential candidates, however the Fee says it’s nonetheless too early to open accession talks with them.

There are widespread issues within the EU about unlawful migration by way of the Balkans, with some nations seen as back-door smuggling routes.

Migrant numbers have dropped sharply since 2016, when EU-led restrictions had been imposed at borders within the Balkans and Turkey tightened its controls.