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Albania, Macedonia Backed For EU Membership Talks

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Albania, Macedonia backed for EU membership talks

The EU on Tuesday backed the opening of formal membership talks with Albania and Macedonia as the bloc looks to expand into the Balkans and grow for the first time in years.

Brussels, (UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News, app - 17th Apr, 2018 ) :The EU on Tuesday backed the opening of formal membership talks with Albania and Macedonia as the bloc looks to expand into the Balkans and grow for the first time in years.

The announcement comes a month ahead of a summit in Sofia when the leaders of six Balkan nations will be given fresh hope of eventually joining the EU, amid rivalry between Brussels and Moscow over the region.

Skopje and Tirana both welcomed the move and vowed to work hard to remove obstacles on the long way to full membership. EU diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini said the European Commission, the executive arm of the EU, recommended that member states "open accession negotiations with Albania and with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia." Mogherini stressed that any prospective members must make sweeping reforms to secure their entry to the club, which currently counts 28 countries as members -- although Britain is set to leave next year.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker put all enlargement on hold four years ago, and the Balkans states have become increasingly impatient. Montenegro and Serbia are the frontrunners to join, having already started the formal membership process, with Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo and Macedonia lagging behind.

In February the EU unveiled its new strategy for the region, which aims to give membership to some states by 2025 but insists they must first resolve all border rows. The EU has been wary of admitting new members before they settle their differences.

The border rows will be a particular point of contention in a region still bedevilled by the aftermath of the bloody break-up of Yugoslavia in the 1990s. These include a bitter and long-running dispute between Macedonia and EU-member Greece over its name, which Athens insists refers to its own northern province.

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