The European Commission will recommend the opening of EU membership negotiations with both Albania and North Macedonia at end-May, Johannes Hahn, European Commissioner for Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations said in front of German Handelsblatt. The recommendation will be based on the established criteria which all EU member states have agreed on, Hahn stated. The final decision on whether negotiations for EU accession with Albania will be launched will be made by the EU’s Council in June. This will be the first EC’s recommendation supporting Albania’s candidature for EU accession, which is a positive sign for the country’s EU integration aspirations, in our view.
We note that EU’s Council decided to postpone the decision on the opening of the talks with Albania in Jun 2018 until Jun 2019, as it wanted to see whether Albania will make a significant progress in necessary reforms. France, Denmark and the Netherlands were firmly against the opening of talks with Albania pointing out the serious problems with the judicial reform advancing, corruption and organized crime. However, the ongoing political crisis in Albania, as the opposition left the parliament in February accusing the government in ties with organized crime, might result in a new delay in the launch of EU membership talks with Albania, in our view. EU officials have several times criticized Albania’s opposition of selecting a non-democratic way to fight against the government, so the political destabilization might raise the issue of how democratic Albania is at present, in our opinion.
Albania deserves the launch of the talks taking into account its efforts into making internal reforms, in particular the judiciary reform, Hahn explained. He nevertheless pointed out that further measures to address high-level corruption and organized crime in the country are necessary. Hahn highlighted the necessity of supporting EU’s trustworthiness as not recognizing progress in Western Balkans will undermine these countries’ motivation to make reforms and resolve bilateral disputes.