In a joint open letter titled “Let’s move forward in the Western Balkans,” the Czech, Polish, Slovak and Hungarian foreign ministers urge the EU to make a bold decision for start of accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania.
“As the EU decides whether to start accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania, it is important to note that both countries have met the criteria the EU set out for them, by putting in place complex domestic reforms. Moreover, North Macedonia has concluded the historic Prespa Agreement with Greece, resolving the long-standing dispute over the country’s name,” write Czech minister of foreign affairs Tomáš Petříček, Hungarian minister of foreign affairs Péter Szijjártó, Polish minister of foreign affairs Jacek Czaputowicz and Slovak minister of foreign affairs Miroslav Lajčák in a joint open letter published by Politico.
They underlined that in recognition of this impressive progress, the European Commission issued an unconditional recommendation in May 2019 to launch negotiations on EU membership with both countries. And yet, North Macedonia and Albania are still waiting for the green light from the EU’s national governments.
“The start of accession talks is an important step on the way to joining the EU, but it should not be confused with membership itself. EU integration is a finely balanced merit-based process that aims to help the Western Balkan countries reform and prepare for EU membership while improving the quality of life of their citizens. It is also a joint strategic choice of the EU and its partners in the region. Incorporating the western Balkans into the Union is in the political, economic and security interests of the EU,” foreign minister note.
They also pointed out that the negotiations are a long-term process that will give the EU ample room for the scrutiny of the candidate countries’ reforms, including those in the crucial area of the rule of law.
“North Macedonia and Albania are eagerly awaiting the beginning of a new stage of the EU integration process. The time is ripe to make a bold decision on the future of not just these two countries but the entire Western Balkans and the EU as well. A positive decision will send a clear signal that the EU recognizes concrete results in meeting the conditions it sets out. It will provide the region with a fresh impetus for further reforms and transformation. By enabling North Macedonia and Albania to take the next step in the integration process, the EU will reaffirm its commitment to the stability, security, democracy and prosperity of the region. And it will acknowledge the fact that only through the integration of the western Balkans can the EU be complete and its long-term interests properly safeguarded,” four EU foreign ministers assess.