Fri. May 27th, 2022

Brussels, 20 April 2022

  • EU called on to demonstrate unity and full political commitment towards enlargement
  • Bulgaria and North Macedonia encouraged to swiftly resolve pending bilateral issues

MEPs urge Council to greenlight accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania as they have met the conditions and cite the geostrategic context of Russia’s aggression in Ukraine.

The official start of accession negotiations will be an investment in the EU’s credibility as well as in the stability, prosperity and the ongoing reconciliation processes in the Western Balkans region), emphasize Foreign Affairs Committee MEPs in a report on North Macedonia for 2021 adopted on Wednesday.

The report, which assesses the country’s progress on the path towards EU membership, urges the Council to officially start accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia, especially in the geostrategic context of relations with Russia and its aggression against Ukraine. It calls on the EU to critically assess historically important security implications for stability and unity on the European continent and the Western Balkans, (and to demonstrate European unity and its full political commitment towards enlargement.

Council has failed to open long overdue accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania, MEPs say, which has undermined public attitude towards the EU and is a serious danger to enlargement policy as a whole, states the report. MEPs stress that both countries have fulfilled the conditions set by the European Council and delivered sustained results.

MEPs commend North Macedonia on its continuous efforts to strengthen the rule of law, judicial independence and minority rights, counter corruption and organised crime, reform its public administration and consolidate media freedom.

The report welcomes North Macedonia’s continued commitment to the Euro-Atlantic security framework and commends the country’s full alignment with the EU’s foreign, security and defence policy in response to the Russian aggression against Ukraine. It also notes the risks of increasing economic and energy dependence on China and Russia, and is concerned that dependence on China-funded investment loans leaves the region vulnerable.

Encouraging Bulgaria and North Macedonia to swiftly find a mutually acceptable solution to pending bilateral issues, in order not to further delay and impede the accession, MEPs welcome the political impetus for constructive engagement between both sides.

The rapporteur Ilhan Kyuchyuk (Renew, BG) said:“North Macedonia demonstrated the best democratic transition record across the Western Balkan region and fully aligned with the EU’s foreign policy in the face of Russian aggression against Ukraine. Considering the broader geostrategic context and that the country has delivered sustained results, we call for long overdue accession negotiations to officially start. I welcome the positive engagement to resolve pending bilateral issues and urge Bulgaria and North Macedonia to promptly find a mutually acceptable solution.”

The report was adopted by 66 votes in favour , 4 against, and 5 abstentions.

Background

North Macedonia has been a candidate country since 2005, and the Commission has been recommending that accession negotiations be opened since 2009. The EU continues to be North Macedonia’s biggest trade and investment partner by far and the country’s largest provider of financial assistance.

Next steps

Following the committee vote, the report will be tabled for vote by plenary in the 18-19 May plenary session.