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Wednesday, November 22, 2017, 

Hahn: Macedonia and Albania are on the right track towards EU

Hahn: Macedonia and Albania are on the right track towards EU

Skopje, 11 November 2017 (MIA) - As the UK moves to exit the EU, the Western Balkans are pushing for the opening of the Union's door. In spring, Brussels can give a green light for opening accession negotiations with Macedonia and Albania, the Austrian daily newspaper Kurier reads.

The EU Commissioner for the European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, Johannes Hahn also told EU-Western Balkans Media Days that took place on Nov. 9 to 10 in Tirana that Macedonia and Albania are on the right track, MIA reports.

EC President Jean-Claude Juncker pointed to 2025 as a possible term for admitting new EU members, but according to Hahn, no state has a guarantee that it will join by then. If a specific deadline is set, it can be a danger for the Western Balkans that will not be able to meet the deadline, to remain waiting and to lag behind.

The accession process is an ongoing reform process, and which country will first join, it has not yet been decided, Hahn told reporters in Tirana.

In February, the European Commission will present a strategy for the Western Balkans to further strengthen the European perspective and the necessary reforms in the region. The expected positive assessment for Macedonia and Albania, which are on the right track, should provide the basis for the EU member states to pave the way for the start of accession negotiations with Skopje and Tirana. Bulgaria will preside over the EU in the first half of 2018, followed by Austria, Romania, Finland and Croatia - all of which are countries that are seeking EU integration of the Western Balkans, Kurier reads.

A positive moment, which was pointed out at Hahn’s meetings in Tirana, is the improved climate in the relations between Greece and Macedonia. This opens opportunities in the coming months for a possible end of the Greek blockade due to the long-standing name dispute with Macedonia.

In regard to Albania, the problem with the thousands of Albanians still seeking asylum in the EU should be solved. It affects the image of the country and therefore has to change, but this cannot be done in a year or two.

Regarding the EU enlargement fatigue, which was also discussed in Tirana, it is necessary for leaders and parliaments in the countries of the Union to talk with their citizens about the benefits of further enlargement. For example, a year and a half ago, the EU opened accession negotiations with Serbia, which caused an investment boom and people began returning to their homeland for the first time, Austrian daily newspaper Kurier reads. sk/14:42

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