German parliament gives the nod for Albania, North Macedonia to start EU accession talks

German parliament gives the nod for Albania, North Macedonia to start EU accession talks
By bne IntelliNews September 27, 2019

The German parliament gave the green light late on September 26 for launching EU accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania.

In June, the European Council delayed the decision to launch membership talks with North Macedonia and Albania but said they will go back to the issue no later than in October. North Macedonia has been a candidate country since 2005 and Albania since 2014.

476 MPs in the Bundestag voted in favour of North Macedonia starting negotiations, 122 voted against and 16 abstained, news agency MIA reported.

For Albania, 350 lawmakers voted for the start of negotiations, 188 were against and 16 abstained.

MPs stated that North Macedonia is required to make additional efforts to complete the necessary reforms, especially in the area of the rule of law, the efficiency of the Special Prosecutor's Office and the fight against corruption.

“The action plans proposed by the European Commission must have clear deadlines, the fulfillment of which should be a condition for the opening of new Chapters. The Bundestag reserves the right to change its position if it finds that the conditions set for the start of negotiations are not met,” Deutsche Welle reported, citing the Bundestag decision.

For Albania, the Bundestag placed nine conditions for the launch of EU accession talks including solid progress in the fight against corruption, administrative reforms, electoral reforms and punishment for vote buying.

Albanian President Ilir Meta was the first to welcome the green light of the German Bundestag for the opening of membership talks between the EU and Albania. 

"It is now urgent to work quickly to resolve the severe political crisis and to meet the nine clear criteria. If their advice had been heard in time, today we would have an unconditional decision just like North Macedonia,” Meta said in a Facebook post.

The decision by the German parliament is a major, but not decisive step for North Macedonia and Albania to obtain a date for the launch of EU accession talks, as France, the Netherlands and Denmark remain major critics of the enlargement process.

EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn welcomed the Bundestag decision in a tweet.

"The German Bundestag votes for opening EU accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania is an important signal from Berlin ahead of the General Affairs Council on October 15th when EU member states will decide," Hahn said.

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