On 24 March, EU ministers responsible for European affairs gave their political agreement to the opening of the accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia.
This accord is the first step towards EU enlargement. However, it also includes extensive conditions on Albania, such as electoral and judicial reforms, taking action against corruption, amending the country’s media laws and implementing tougher measures against irregular migration.
Commenting on the agreement, ALDE Party President Hans van Baalen said: "As liberals, we strongly support the EU enlargement and the accession of the Western Balkans to the European Union and believe that the accession of Albania and North Macedonia is a win-win situation for all stakeholders."
While the latest developments in Europe – including Brexit, the escalation of measures taken by Turkey and the coronavirus outbreak – have highlighted the shortcomings of the EU’s cohesiveness as well as the need to revive the credibility and strength of its institutions and processes, the enlargement process is a step to a positive direction that will help achieve integration in Europe and ensure that Albania and North Macedonia will continue in the liberal and democratic path. North Macedonia in particular has taken significant steps over the last years to this direction, but it is vital that the reform and implementation of the Prespa agreement is still ensured and that the core European values – such as good governance, democracy and the rule of law – are respected.
ALDE Party Vice President and Renew Europe MEP, Ilhan Kyuchyuk, who is the shadow rapporteur on EU enlargement and the Renew Europe Chairman of the working group on Neighbourhood and Enlargement policy, stated: “The European Council finally succeeded to give an answer to the expectations of the Western Balkan countries and their citizens, who have been waiting long for something positive to happen. This act is even more significant now. Not because we overcame the disappointment of the Council’s decision in October, but because Europe and the world are currently in an unprecedented situation”
The European Council needs to make the final decision in its next meeting on 26 March.
ALDE has always been a strong supporter of opening accession talks with North Macedonia & Albania. We are convinced that this line will adopted by tomorrows #EUCO. Also in times of #COVID19 we should be in solidarity with Western Balkans! https://t.co/h7jRj5H3qk— Hans van Baalen (@hansvanbaalen) March 25, 2020
The @EUCouncil finally gave an answer to the expectations of the #WesternBalkans. Because of the #COVIDー19 this act is even more significant now. The green light to start the accession talks with #NorthMacedonia and #Albania shows that #EU can take decisions in times of crisis. pic.twitter.com/1mJlDKy5v9— Ilhan Kyuchyuk (@ilhankyuchyuk) March 24, 2020