Tags: EU | Balkans | EU

EU Official Favors Western Balkans Integration into the Bloc

Tuesday, 24 April 2018 10:39 AM

TIRANA, Albania (AP) — A senior European Union official said Tuesday that the road to membership in the bloc for Albania and Macedonia would be tough but "worth the effort."

European Council President Donald Tusk's comments came as he started a weeklong tour of Western Balkans countries, urging more work in the rule of law and the fight against organized crime and corruption.

The 28 EU member states must agree unanimously for any country to become a member. Accession to the bloc has been a powerful driver of political and democratic reform in post-communist countries.

"The process will resemble more a hurdles race than a motorway. But full integration remains our common destiny," Tusk said at a news conference with his host, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, adding that "what you have made is enough ... to open accession talks."

Last week, the European Commission said enough progress has been made for Albania and Macedonia's accession talks to begin.

"Accession negotiations with the European Union are not easy, but I can tell you from my political and personal experience, that they are worth the effort," he said.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said Europe's door must remain open, and that he didn't want to see a return to war "in this extremely complicated region."

Nevertheless, French President Emmanuel Macron has ruled out any expansion of the EU until the bloc is reformed.

EU and Balkans leaders will meet for a summit in Bulgaria on May 17.

"In Sofia we should reaffirm the European perspective of the Western Balkans," Tusk said.

He said the summit should find the ways and tools to improve the bloc's ties with the region and among its countries.

"To boost our cooperation in these concrete areas we do not need to wait until EU enlargement."

"I have no doubt that it's in the best interest of EU and Albania that the entire Western Balkans region is fully integrated into the EU," Tusk said.

The summit will also be an occasion to discuss common security challenges, such as migrant smuggling, terrorism and organized crime, he said.

Raf Casert contributed to this report from Brussels.

Follow Llazar Semini on Twitter https://twitter.com/lsemini

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A senior European Union official said Tuesday that the road to membership in the bloc for Albania and Macedonia would be tough but "worth the effort."European Council President Donald Tusk's comments came as he started a weeklong tour of Western Balkans countries, urging...
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2018-39-24
Tuesday, 24 April 2018 10:39 AM
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