EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini said the two countries had made significant progress in implementing the reforms demanded by Brussels and that they could join their neighbours Montenegro and Serbia, which are already in negotiations.
The move comes ahead of a major EU summit in Sofia next month to discuss the Western Balkan countries’ relationship with the union, and the week a pro-EU president was elected in Montenegro.
Ms Mogherini suggested that Bosnia and Kosovo, two other countries in the region that want to join, had more work to do before talks could start with them – but did not rule out their future accession, stating that “the Western Balkans are Europe, and will be part of the European Union’s future”.
“Over the past year and beyond partners from the region have delivered very important reforms across the board and have modernised their economies. Out of six Western Balkan partners, two, Montenegro and Serbia, have progressed well in the negotiations,” she said.
“Today the Commission recommends that the Council decides to open accession negotiations with Albania and with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
the Western Balkans are Europe, and will be part of the European Union’s future
“We are also working towards an opinion on Bosnia and Herzegovina’s application, and with the Kosovo authorities, we are working towards further progress on the basis of the stabilisation and association agreement we have.”
She added: “I have to say that over the last three years we have seen results that were clearly considered impossible to be achieved when we started our mandate.”
Ms Mogherini said she would be travelling to the region on Tuesday evening to meet with national leaders there. The European Commission has produced seven individual reports on the Western Balkan countries and Turkey, and their prospects for accession to the EU. All have said they want to join. The High Representative for Foreign Affairs said membership would be conditional on the continuation of reforms.
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The European Council, which is made up to the 28 EU leaders and next meets in June, would have to sign off the European Commission’s recommendation for it to become official.
Other than the Balkan states, Turkey has also been a candidate country since 1999 – but talks have stalled and effectively stopped, with several EU leaders saying they would not permit Turkey to join.