EU to start membership talks with Macedonia and Albania | News | DW | 26.06.2018
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EU to start membership talks with Macedonia and Albania

The European Union will start accession negotiations with Macedonia and Albania, pending progress on reforms. Some member states have expressed concern over corruption and the rule of law in the two countries.

The European Union will start accession negotiations with Albania and Macedonia, pending progress towards reforms, EU countries decided on Tuesday.

The deal was confirmed to German news agency DPA by diplomatic sources after talks on Tuesday among the bloc's European affairs ministers. Some member states expressed concerns about corruption and the rule of law in the two EU hopefuls. Others have pushed to bring the six Western Balkan countries into the EU fold to bolster the bloc's influence in the region. Germany's European affairs minister, Michael Roth, said that Albania and Macedonia have made "remarkable progress in the area of rule of law and the independence of the judiciary." 

Read more: Opinion: Western Balkans have a place in the EU 

European Union enlargement

In addition to Albania and Macedonia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia all hope to join the EU. So far, formal accession negotiations have only been held with Serbia and Montenegro. 

Albania and Macedonia were granted EU candidate status in 2014 and 2005, respectively. If they make sufficient progress towards reforms, the first talks can begin at the end of 2019, the ministers decided. An EU enlargement strategy had previously included a timeline for when these states could join the bloc: 2025.

Reforms

During a visit to the six Western Balkan countries earlier this year, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said that before being admitted into the EU fold, the potential member states would need to undertake political reforms, uphold the rule of law, fight corruption, ensure press freedom, stimulate their economies and resolve outstanding conflicts with their neighbors.  

To make sure that sufficient progress has been made, EU member states will vote again to endorse the opening of talks next year.

Read more: EU eyes enlargement as Jean-Claude Juncker tours Balkans

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kw/rt (dpa, Reuters)

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