AFET MEPs adopted positive reports on North Macedonia and Albania

They said the first Intergovernmental Conferences with Skopje and Tirana should be held as soon as possible

Photo: EP Ilhan Kyuchyuk.

At their meeting on Thursday Foreign Affairs Committee (AFET) MEPs voted on the progress reports for North Macedonia and Albania regarding their EU integration path. The results were announced on Friday.

The report for North Macedonia was adopted by 61 votes for, 4 against and 2 abstentions. In it, MEPs called on EU countries to stand to their commitments and enable the Council to formally start accession negotiations with the RNM.

MEPs stressed that the EU should show clear political will and hold the first Intergovernmental Conference with North Macedonia, which would formally mark the start of the accession negotiations.

AFET members urged the authorities and political parties of North Macedonia to sustain their joint efforts to strengthen democracy, to continue to fight against corruption, and to reinforce the rule of law, good neighbourly relations and regional cooperation while improving the climate for media freedom and civil society.

MEPs recalled North Macedonia’s cooperative and constructive approach throughout the negotiations on the Prespa agreement with Greece and the Treaty on Good Neighbourly Relations with Bulgaria, and regret that Bulgaria and North Macedonia have yet to agree on pending bilateral issues. Continued dialogue is crucial, they stress, and call on the two countries to reach a compromise over an action plan that includes concrete measures.

We have reached a broad compromise and have agreed that it is crucial to find a solution to the pending bilateral matters and the implementation of the Treaty of Good Neighbourly Relations between North Macedonia and Bulgaria, rapporteur Ilhan Kyuchyuk (Renew, BG) commented. He said that the final text sends North Macedonia a strong signal regarding its future in the EU and calls for the Intergovernmental Conference to be held as soon as possible in order to prevent further delays.

The report for Albania was backed by 62 votes for, 4 against and one abstention. MEPs welcomed country’s clear strategic focus and commitment to European integration, which is demonstrated by its good neighbourly relations and the continued implementation of accession-related reforms.

MEPs also commended the Council’s decision to open accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania, emphasise the importance of the integration process as a catalyst for reform and welcome the support that it enjoys among the Albanian people.

They support the convening of the first intergovernmental conference, which would formally mark the start of accession negotiations with the EU, without further delay. They note that to ensure the accession process is credible, milestones must be accomplished in order to progress towards EU membership. Rival actors are seeking to undermine further integration and the political stability of Western Balkan countries, MEPs emphasised.

AFET deputies stressed that progress in accession to the EU depends on lasting, in-depth and irreversible reforms across fundamental areas, starting with the rule of law, the effective functioning of democratic institutions and public administration as well as the economy.

They urged political leaders to instill confidence by being more transparent and overcoming the lack of dialogue with each other. MEPs express their serious concern about the polarised political climate and lack of sustainable cross-party cooperation that continue to hamper the democratic process.

The general elections of 25 April 2021 will be a key moment to consolidate and renew the country’s democratic procedures and structures and to achieve a higher level of political stability, MEPs stressed, saying that free and fair elections are fundamental for EU integration.

For the rapporteur on Albania, Isabel Santos (S&D, PT), this report comes at an important time for the country and the EP recognises all the progress that has been made towards the first Intergovernmental Conference. I believe this to be a good sign that the efforts made by the Albanian people and all the political actors should continue, she said adding that she is happy that the EP was able to approve this positive report after a very difficult year for Albania, not only because of the pandemic, but also due to the earthquake in November 2019.

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