EU membership negotiations should begin with Albania and North Macedonia, according to the bloc's foreign policy chief.
Federica Mogherini, speaking at a press conference on the bloc's enlargement, said talks should start as soon as possible.
She said both countries merit having their progress acknowledged and the failure to do so would hit the EU's credibility.
The last member state to join the union was Croatia in 2013.
The recommendation comes as Albania has been gripped by violent protests in recent weeks. Demonstrators in the capital Tirana attacking the gates of prime minister Edi Rama’s office earlier this month.
Protesters are calling for Rama to resign over allegations over his alleged involvement in corruption and electoral fraud and want a snap election to be held.
The EU, along with the US government, have called Rama's government legitimate and have called for opposition parties to return to the Albanian parliament ahead of the local elections on June 30.
Albania was officially given candidate status to join the EU in June 2014. It has transitioned to a market economy and begun to open up to the whole since the fall of communism in the 1990s and the death of its strongman ruler Enver Hoxha in 1985.
Protesters have been seen waving EU flags and have used the popular slogan from the 1990s: "We want a European Albania".
North Macedonia, meanwhile, has resolved a long-running name dispute with neighbours Greece, which has opened the door to EU and NATO membership.
We corrected this article to say Albania was given official candidate status in June 2014, not last year as previously reported.