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Commission recommends membership talks for Albania, Macedonia

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Commission recommends membership talks for Albania, Macedonia

Hahn - Mogherini - Photo EC

(BRUSSELS) - The European Commission adopted its annual Enlargement Package Tuesday, recommending that the Council open accession negotiations with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and with Albania.

The package includes seven individual reports and assesses implementation of the EU's enlargement policy which is based on established criteria and fair and rigorous conditionality.

The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia needs to deliver on urgent reform priorities which will be 'decisive for the country's further progress, says the report. For Albania, progress is needed in the field of rule of law, in particular across five key reform priorities, and there needs to be concrete and tangible results in the re-evaluation of judges and prosecutors (vetting).

The Commission says it will apply the 'reinforced approach' for the negotiating chapters on judiciary and fundamental rights and justice, freedom and security - in line with 'merit-based approach and strict conditionality', confirmed by the Commission's Western Balkans strategy.

The Strategy for the Western Balkans states that the EU needs to be ready for new members – once they have met the conditions – including from an institutional and financial perspective. It adds that the Union 'must be stronger, more solid and more efficient before it can be bigger'.

"A step forward today for the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Albania is a step forward for the entire Western Balkans region," said EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini: "Our strategic focus and engagement are delivering practical progress and benefits to the people in the region. The work on reforms and modernisation however needs to continue, in the interest of the partners and the European Union."

The assessment of progress and shortcomings provide incentives and guidance to the countries to pursue the necessary far-reaching reforms. Countries are expected to prioritise reforms in fundamental areas of the rule of law, human rights, democratic institutions and public administration reform, as well as on economic development and competitiveness, all areas where structural shortcomings still persist. Countries must also ensure that the reforms are properly implemented and that they demonstrate a track record of concrete results.The Commission supports reform efforts through policy support and financial assistance.

Together with the Enlargement Package, the Commission also published for the first time its annual assessments of the Economic Reform Programmes for the Western Balkans and Turkey. The annual assessments of the Economic Reform Programmes for the Western Balkan countries and Turkey show continued economic growth and efforts to strengthen macroeconomic and fiscal stability in the light of current vulnerabilities. Sound policies should be maintained and strengthened and the reforms speeded up to reduce the still persisting macroeconomic risks and unlock sources for sustainable long-term growth and speed up convergence with the EU.

The Economic Reform Programmes (ERPs) play a key role in improving economic policy planning and steering reforms aiming at boosting competitiveness and improving conditions for inclusive growth and job creation. They help the partner countries meet the economic criteria for accession and prepare for the participation in the European Semester of economic policy coordination in the EU after accession. This year for the first time the two packages have been synchronised, highlighting the importance of the functioning economy in advancing on the EU path.

The EU's current enlargement agenda covers the partners of the Western Balkans and Turkey. Accession negotiations have been opened with candidate countries Montenegro (2012), Serbia (2014), Turkey (2005). The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is a candidate country since 2005 and Albania obtained candidate status in 2014. Bosnia and Herzegovina (application to join the EU submitted in February 2016) and Kosovo (Stabilisation and Association Agreement entered into force in April 2016) are potential candidates.

Detailed findings and recommendations on each country:

Strategy Paper

Montenegro

Serbia

Turkey

The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

Albania

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Kosovo

Economic Reform Programmes for the Western Balkan countries and Turkey


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