Hahn: EC starts preparing accession negotiations as of tomorrow

The European Commission can launch a screening process starting tomorrow, EU Commissioner Johannes Hahn said Tuesday after the EU Council has approved conditional opening of accession talks with Macedonia, MIA reports from Luxembourg.

“I congratulate the citizens of the future North Macedonia on today’s achievement, because now it’s clear that negotiations will launch in June next year and we, the Commission, can start preparing the negotiations starting tomorrow. This is now a clear perspective and clear reward,” said Hahn.

After a tough battle between 25 member states and the Netherlands, France and Denmark, Macedonia was given the green light for a date to open negotiations in June, but under several conditions.

The European Commission should produce a report focused on three main issues: reform in public administration, reform of intelligence services, as well as judicial reforms and fight against corruption. Depending on progress made, the first inter-governmental conference could be held by the end of 2019.

“In view of the above progress, in particular on implementation of the Pržino agreement, the Urgent Reform Priorities and the positive momentum created by the agreement on the name issue with Greece, the Council agrees to respond positively to the above progress made by the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and sets out the path towards opening accession negotiations in June 2019. Accordingly, the Council underlines the critical need for the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to continue making concrete progress on the Urgent Reform Priorities and to deliver further tangible results in the fight against corruption, maintaining and deepening the current reform momentum. To this effect, the Council calls on the Commission to monitor closely the above reform efforts of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and will assess progress on the basis of the yearly Commission report. The Council recalls that the decision to open accession negotiations with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia will be subject to completion of national parliamentary procedures and the endorsement by the European Council and swiftly thereafter be followed by the first Intergovernmental Conference by the end of 2019, depending on progress made,” reads the conclusion of the Council of EU Ministers.

The Council, it adds, underlines that this assessment of progress should include further tangible and sustained results, focusing in particular on: judicial reforms and proactive investigations, prosecutions and final convictions in corruption and organised crime cases, including at high level; intelligence and security services reform; public administration reform.

Furthermore, the Council takes note of the intention of the Commission to begin the necessary preparatory work.