Brussels, Jul 19 (EFE).- The European Union opened on Tuesday accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia.
“What a historic moment. Today, Albania and North Macedonia are opening the accession negotiations to the European Union, and I am so glad to be here with you,” president of the Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, told a press conference in Brussels.
Von der Leyen praised the countries’ “success” and “resilience” in committing to EU values, which include fighting corruption, improving economies, establishing free media and strengthening the rule of law.
“You have made all these changes not just because they were necessary on your path towards the European Union, but above all because they are good for your countries. And they are already delivering a better quality of life for your people,” the Commission chief said, adding that the first steps of the process would start immediately.
Albania was granted EU candidacy — the first step in the long process before accession to the bloc is granted — in 2014, while North Macedonia was granted the status in 2005.
Accession negotiations had been blocked by Bulgaria, who said it would not lift its veto on North Macedonia until Skopje made amendments to its Constitution to recognise its minority Bulgarian population.
Last week, North Macedonia passed a French-brokered deal to end the dispute with Bulgaria, clearing the way for EU accession talks for the Western Balkans states.
“We would not be here today without the extra effort of the French president, Emmanuel Macron, and his team who worked tirelessly, especially during the Nato summit to get to the final French proposal which opened the way to this unblocking to an absurd situation,” Albanian prime minister, Edi Rama, said.
“It is a great satisfaction that after 17 years, today we are finally starting the negotiations, we are opening new prospects for our country and citizens and steady but surely we are joining the large European family,” North Macedonia’s prime minister, Dimitar Kovačevsk, said.
“Our place is in the European Union,” he added.