In the late evening on Thursday 26 March 2020, the members of the European Council decided to fully endorse the Council of the European Union conclusions to open accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia. This historic decision by EU’s highest decision-making body, is a clear recognition of Albania’s and North Macedonia’s dedicated efforts and progress in the reforms needed towards a European future.
The EU Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement Olivér Várhelyi commented:
“Opening of accession talks sends a loud and clear message not only to the two countries, but to the Western Balkans as a whole. It reaffirms and delivers on the EU’s commitment to the European perspective of the region: its present is with the EU and its future is in the EU.”
President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said:
“The European Union delivers on its promise. North Macedonia and Albania did what was asked of them and they have continued making progress in the reforms needed. Today marks the start of the journey to a bigger and stronger European Union. And this decision is in the European Union’s geostrategic interest.”
For the past two decades, the two MARRI Participants’ administrations have worked tirelessly on strengthening democracy, including rule of law, justice and fundamental rights, reforming the public administration, strengthening competitiveness and supporting business development, and worked towards a cleaner environment and safer food.
A key focus within these efforts has been strengthening and harmonization of the migration management systems. Albania and North Macedonia recently adopted new EU-aligned laws regulating the movement and stay of foreigners, the frameworks for international protection, and have increasingly cooperated with EU’s specialized migration agencies, the European Border and Coast Guard (Frontex) and the European Asylum Support Office (EASO).
With European Council’s decision to open accession negotiations, the next step in the EU accession process is the negotiation frameworks which are to be developed and proposed by the European Commission. These frameworks establish the guidelines and principles governing the accession negotiations with each candidate. Once these frameworks are adopted by the Council of the EU (Council of Ministers), the first intergovernmental conferences between the candidates and the EU will be convened. Throughout its work and mandate MARRI has been dedicated to promote closer regional cooperation and support MARRI Participants towards reaching EU standards in areas of migration and border management. The opening of the EU accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia, in addition to the ongoing negotiations with Serbia and Montenegro, is a strong indication for the region’s future in the European family.