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Meeting of Ministers for European Affairs, Tuesday 24 March

Meeting of Ministers for European Affairs, Tuesday 24 March

 

Minister of State for European Affairs, Helen McEntee, T.D., joined her EU Ministerial colleagues today, by videoconference, for a meeting of Ministers for European Affairs.

 

The meeting took place against the backdrop of the COVID-19 crisis facing all EU Member States as they work together to overcome this challenge.

 

After the meeting, Minister McEntee said:

“These are very difficult days for us all, a crisis the likes of which has never been encountered on such a global scale before. I would like to express Ireland’s appreciation for the solidarity and support which has been demonstrated by all EU Partners & Institutions as we attempt to muster our resources to overcome this pandemic.

I reaffirmed the clear role which I and other of my EU colleagues believe we as European Affairs Ministers can play in communicating the important efforts and practical cooperation being undertaken at both EU and national level to tackle this unprecedented crisis.

I also took the opportunity today to offer Ireland’s sympathy to the Croatian EU Presidency, following the injuries and damage suffered during Sunday’s earthquake near Zagreb.”

 

During the meeting, Ministers discussed the issue of EU enlargement and Member States endorsed the opening of EU accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia. This is in light of the progress that both countries have achieved on reforms and the fulfilment of the conditions set unanimously by the Council in June 2018.

 

In addition, Member States approved the Commission Communication on "Enhancing the accession process - A credible EU perspective for the Western Balkans". The measures set out in the Commission Communication are aimed at reinvigorating the accession process by increasing its dynamism and credibility, while also making it subject to stronger political steering.

 

On the issue of enlargement, Minister McEntee said:

 

“I am pleased to have reached agreement with my European colleagues on opening EU accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia. Both countries have continued to deliver on their reform commitments, and a positive decision is fully deserved and, indeed, overdue. Such a decision will reinforce the European perspective of the Western Balkans region, and sends a positive signal at what is an extremely difficult time for us all, as we confront the very serious challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

ENDS
Press Office
24 March 2020

 

Notes for Editors

Accession negotiations

 

Albania - In June 2014, Albania was awarded candidate status by the EU. Four years later, in April 2018, the European Commission issued an unconditional recommendation to open accession negotiations with Albania, and reiterated the recommendation to open accession talks in the Enlargement Package adopted in May 2019 and in its recent progress report on the country.

 

North Macedonia – In December 2005, North Macedonia was awarded candidate status by the EU. Since October 2009, the Commission has recommended to open accession negotiations with the country, with the recommendation made conditional in 2015 on substantial progress in the implementation of the "Urgent Reform Priorities". In light of the progress achieved, the Commission made an unconditional recommendation to open accession negotiations in April 2018, and reiterated the recommendation to open accession talks in the Enlargement Package adopted in May 2019 and in its recent progress report on the country.

 

Commission Communication on enhancing the accession process

 

The Communication was published on 5 February and sets out a revised enlargement methodology which is built around four main principles:

 

  • Credibility: Candidate countries need to deliver on the reforms they promised, and EU needs to deliver when they do.
  • Stronger political steer: Engaging with the candidates at top level through regular summits and ministerial meetings. Member States will be involved more strongly and have better opportunities to monitor and review the process.
  • A more dynamic process: Clustering chapters will allow for more thorough political discussions on thematic areas and to identify opportunities for early alignment and integration into EU policies. The cluster on fundamentals (rule of law, economic criteria and public administration reform) will take a central role and sufficient progress will need to be achieved before other clusters can be opened.
  • Predictability for both sides: Defining more clearly the conditions for candidate countries. Providing them with clear incentives if key reforms successfully implemented and more decisive measures sanctioning any serious or prolonged stagnation or backsliding on reforms.

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