Socialists and Democrats express their greatest concerns following the inability of the European affairs ministers of EU countries to find yesterday an agreement to start the accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania. We call on the EU Heads of State that will gather at the Summit in Brussels on Thursday and Friday to take the responsibility and finally act.
S&D vice-president for foreign affairs, Kati Piri, said:
“We are deeply worried about the total inability to take a decision on North Macedonia and Albania at yesterday’s General Affairs Council meeting. As it was repeatedly stated by the European Commission, both North Macedonia and Albania fulfilled all criteria and did what we asked them to do.”
“The assessment for these two countries is of course different. These are two separate systems with different political contexts and distinct challenges, and every country must be judged objectively, independently and on its own merits with precise criteria and exact conditionality. But, what I want to underline is that this decision is not about EU membership; the start of accession negotiations is based on an assessment made on clear benchmarks and clear deliverables.”
“North Macedonia has been a candidate country for 14 years and has been deemed by the European Commission to be ready for accession talks since 2009. The toughest negotiations on its name led to the historical Prespa Agreement putting an end to 27 years of dispute. We are now in the process of deciding on a new Commissioner for Enlargement for the next five years. If this is the kind of consideration the Council gives to the Commission’s assessments and formal recommendations, I am extremely concerned about the utility and political relevance of such a portfolio and such an exercise.”
“I call on all leaders of the European Council to show political maturity and take their full responsibility and finally grant their green light for the opening of the accessions talks. The postponing of the decision again would damage the image and leverage of the EU in the whole Western Balkans region and in the EU itself as a result.”
Tonino Picula, S&D coordinator in the committee on foreign affairs, added:
“The S&D Group has always been a staunch supporter of EU enlargement towards the Western Balkans, as we believe the EU itself will benefit from a stable and prosperous region.
“The decision on starting negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania is primarily about the credibility of the EU. The leaders, when they meet this week, should also consider the consequences of their inability to come to an agreement and what this means to the stability of the Western Balkans countries that have, so far, been pursuing positive and required reforms as a rational investment that are aimed at ensuring a better future for them.
“The EU’s history is the history of enlargement, despite all the internal and external challenges we have faced. As a Social democrat from Croatia, I reiterate our commitment that we will continue to be on the side of the people from the Western Balkans and continue to push for their future in the EU.