Albania and Macedonia both look set to join the EU club, after the European Council recommended respective applications of admission.
The Commission said in a statement that both countries had made “progress” in various areas, but added that ”certain reforms are necessary.”
For Albania, the Commission said the country needs to go further in addressing rule of law concerns, while Macedonia needed to address corruption, issues surrounding freedom of expression and censorship.
A step forward today for the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Albania is a step forward for the entire Western Balkans region,” said EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini in the statement.
“Our strategic focus and engagement are delivering practical progress and benefits to the people in the region. The work on reforms and modernisation however needs to continue, in the interest of the partners and the European Union.”
Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama praised the Commission’s decision as “an important day in the history of our country.”
“Over the last two decades, Albania has listened and learned, made mistakes, corrected them and steered deep-rooted change. A lot has been achieved so far, but much remains to be done,” Rama added. “We are reforming our country not only in the perspective of one day becoming a member of the European Union, but more importantly to provide lasting peace, stability and prosperity for our people and all neighbouring peoples.”
Macedonia’s Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov said on Twitter that it was a “great day for all Europeans from Macedonia,” adding that “the long journey to make their country a true European democracy has restarted today.”
What’s in a name?
One of the more interesting disputes is the name Macedonia. Greece, which has a region by the same name, has been pressuring the country to change its name in a bid to avoid confusion.
According to the latest report on the dispute:
‘Athens contends that the name Macedonia represents a territorial claim over Greece’s northern province, also named Macedonia.
The former Yugoslav republic’s U.N.-recognized name is the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, or FYROM. Macedonia hopes that adding a geographic qualifier will make the distinction more clear.’