By Serife Cetin
BRUSSELS (AA) – The European Union's top leaders Thursday urged the bloc to start accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania to include them in the EU.
“We believe that now is the time to open accession talks with both countries,” European Council President Donald Tusk, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, European Parliament President David Sassoli and Ursula von der Leyen, president-elect of European Commission, said in a joint letter addressing the EU members.
The letter recalled that they agreed to reach a "clear and substantive" decision to start accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania no later than October 2019.
“Whether the EU decides now to open accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania is a test of the Union’s ability to deliver on its promises and look to the future,” it said.
Underlining that North Macedonia and Albania did what the EU asked them to do, they said that both countries are aware that the membership will not happen overnight.
“There is no guarantee of success. There will be a lot of hard work on reforms along the way,” it added.
Accession negotiations must be concluded before a new member state can join the EU.
They take place between ministers and ambassadors of the EU governments and the candidate country.
“It entails rigorous screening of the candidate country's legislation; negotiations then proceed methodically through the range of EU legislation, which the candidate country must adopt, implement and enforce," according to the EU.
*Writing by Gozde Bayar