European Commission Recommends Membership Talks With Macedonia, Albania

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But speaking through an interpreter European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, whose institution recommends whether countries should be allowed in, insisted that Europe's door must remain open.

The EU on Tuesday backed the opening of formal membership talks with Albania and Macedonia as the bloc looks to expand into the Balkans and grow for the first time in years.

The government of FYROM hopes the issue will be resolved before the summit in Brussels scheduled for July, Skopje has previously suggested that a geographical qualifier could be added to its name to differentiate from Greek Macedonia.

"I don't want a Balkans that turns toward Turkey or Russian Federation, but I don't want a Europe that, working with difficulty at 28 and tomorrow at 27, decided that it could continue to run at 30 or 32 tomorrow with the same rules", Macron said. Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Albania, and Kosovo are seeking membership candidacy.

A step forward today for Macedonia and Albania is a step forward for the entire Western Balkans region, Mogherini said in a statement following the adoption of the European Commission's annual enlargement package.

Hashim Thaci says that Kosovo remains committed and with "the proper will to intensify its steps toward integration into the European Union".

The other four Western Balkan nations are seeking European Union membership - Albania, Macedonia, Bosnia and Kosovo - but have their own battle to clean up corruption and organised crime in their countries.

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An ally of Russia, Serbia has refused to recognise its former breakaway province of Kosovo since it declared independence a decade ago.

Albanian Foreign Minister Ditmir Bushati welcomed the decision as a "Great day for Albania".

For Serbia, the commission says there has been some progress in certain areas, including the judicial system, public administration reform and the fight against corruption.

During a German election debate, last September, Mrs Merkel said she did not believe Turkey should become an European Union member and that she would take up with her European Union colleagues the issue of ending accession talks. "They are part of a wider process of modernization and reforms".

EU member states must endorse the European Commission's proposal before talks can start.

The Balkans spiraled into conflict in the 1990s as former Yugoslavia broke apart, but ethnic and nationalist tensions continue to simmer more than 20 years on.

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