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EU enlargement: Brussels 'can open membership talks' with Albania and North Macedonia

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North Macedonia Rally on February 17, 2020
North Macedonia Rally on February 17, 2020   -   Copyright  Boris Grdanoski/AP
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The European Union has opened membership talks with the North Macedonia and Albania, the Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement, Oliver Varhelyi, has announced.

Varhelyi took to Twitter to confirm that the bloc's 27 EU members had reached the agreement, adding that this "also sends a loud and clear message to the Western Balkans: your future is in the EU".

Croatia, which holds the baton for the rotating Presidency of the European Council, said this is a "recognition of the significant reform efforts taken by the two countries".

The country had signalled their intention to push accession talks to the top of the agenda when beginning their tenure of holding the six month rotating presidency in January, Croatia being the latest to join the bloc in 2011.

North Macedonia's foreign affairs minister, Nikola Dimitrov, took to Twitter saying the EU's decision "in this dire time is a symbol of its true strength".

Meanwhile his Albanian counterpart, Gent Cakaj, hailed it as an "historic achievement" adding that their commitment toward EU membership is "unwavering".

Albania along with a number of other countries had been signalled as potential candidates to join the bloc at the Thessaloniki European Council summit in 2003.

French President Emmanuel Macron had vetoed EU membership talks with the two nations in October 2019, along with Denmark and the Netherlands.