The European Union kicked off accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania on Tuesday.
EU Commission head Ursula von der Leyen hailed the “historic moment” at a joint news conference with Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala, Albanian Premier Edi Rama and North Macedonia’s Prime Minister Dimitar Kovacevski.
Von der Leyen praised the rule of law and anti-corruption reforms undertaken and resilience demonstrated by the two countries, terming it a “success” of their leaders and people.
The governments of North Macedonia and Albania did not implement the reforms just for EU accession, but because they are “good for your countries and are already delivering a better quality of life for your people,” she said.
Representing the turning presidency of the Council of the European Union, Fiala congratulated the two countries for “this milestone.”
“We all be stronger by your (European) career, your choice,” he noted, saying the two countries' European commitment has been tested over the past months due to Russia's war on Ukraine that started on Feb. 24.
Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama expressed gratitude to Germany's former Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron for their diplomatic efforts, as well as to “the Albanian people who never gave up to dream, to pursue the European path.”
He stressed that the opening of the accession talks is only “the end of the beginning” and “we need to continue to build a strong, democratic, European Albania, and Western Balkans.”
For his part, North Macedonia’s head of government Dimitar Kovacevski expressed hope for a fast EU accession process.
He called the EU’s proposal on linguistic and cultural matters the “best possible solution” that protects and promotes the Macedonian language and paves the way for the negotiation talks.