- Title: EU moves to start membership talks with Albania, North Macedonia
- Date: 24th March 2020
- Summary: BRUSSELS, BELGIUM (FILE - FEBRUARY 21, 2020) (REUTERS) BANNER ON EUROPEAN COUNCIL BUILDING READING (English): "CROATIAN PRESIDENCY OF THE EUROPEAN UNION"
- Keywords: Albania European Union North Macedonia accession talks enlargement
- Reuters ID: LVA001C6EXBUH
- Location: ZAGREB, CROATIA / BRUSSELS, BELGIUM
- City: ZAGREB, CROATIA / BRUSSELS, BELGIUM
- Country: Belgium
- Duration: 00:00:05
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Topics: European Union,Government/Politics
- Story Text: The European Union can start membership negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia, European affairs ministers decided on Tuesday (March 24), ending two years of delays and signalling new momentum for the accession of six Western Balkan countries to the EU.
North Macedonia and Albania had seen their hopes dashed last year as France and the Netherlands sounded scepticism over their track records on democracy and fighting corruption, fearful of allowing new members in at a time when the EU's cohesion was already damaged by Britain's departure from the bloc.
But Paris and The Hague eased their objections last month and the plans to allow talks to start have gained momentum despite the coronavirus crisis, with Brussels eager to show its determination to bring the Balkans into the EU fold.
Croatian State Secretary for European Affairs Andreja Metelko-Zgombic, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the EU, announced the decision after a video-conference meeting with her EU counterparts.
Speaking from Zagreb in a news conference held online alongside European Commissioner for Enlargement Olivier Varhely in Brussels, Andreja Metelko-Zgombic said the decision would be formalised through a written procedure as face-to-face meetings have been suspended due to coronavirus risks.
As well as Albania and North Macedonia, the four other Western Balkans countries hoping to join the EU are Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia.
Accession negotiations have already started for Montenegro and Serbia, which hope to join the bloc this decade. Membership talks usually take years to complete.
(Production Hortense de Roffignac)
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