Varhelyi: Accession talks are approved, the date will come “very quickly”

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European Enlargement Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi clarified that the EU member states approved the opening of accession talks with Macedonia and Albania, but that the actual date will come very soon.

We on our side as a Commission will speed up our work and we will present very shortly the negotiating framework so that the actual negotiations can start very quickly with both countries, Varhelyi said in the improvised press conference held after the European Council and its teleconference.

One specific date that was named at the press conference was June when the European Commission prepares its enlargement package, and Varhelyi said that then it will be clear that both countries have met their conditions for accession talks.

Croatian state secretary Andrejka Metelko – Zgombic said that the European Council will now have to confirm the decision that was reached in today’s teleconference and make it official next week. She added that the negotiating framework, which will be prepared, will also have to be separately approved by the European Council and hinted at other conditions that the two countries may have to meet. She said that these will not be put in place as hurdles but in order to ensure progress in the rule of law area. Varhelyi added that the approach will be “strict but fair”.

Macedonia and Albania will be able to get separate dates to begin accession talks, depending on their level of preparedness. Macedonia is widely seen as more advanced than Albania, which also faces more political skepticism.

Commissioner Varhelyi was asked by the Macedonian Sitel TV about how long he expects the negotiations will last, given that Macedonia sees its laws as 50 percent aligned with those of the EU. Varhelyi replied that he is not sure about this figure and that in either case, even that is not enough.

Fifty percent is not enough for EU membership, if it is the right figure, and I’m not certain it is. With our new methodology, we provide the possibility to go fast, but work and reforms on the other side will have to be really fast. It is not enough just to do the legislative work, you have to provide results that we expect from an EU member state, the Commissioner concluded.