Progressive governments in Albania and FYR Macedonia made it possible for the two countries to achieve a 2019 start date for EU accession negotiations.

The path to EU membership for both countries is high on the agenda at the pre-summit meeting of Party of European Socialists prime ministers today, attended by FYR Macedonia prime minister Zoran Zaev as well as Alexis Tsipras of Greece.

It follows the agreement by EU ministers earlier this week that negotiations should begin next year.

The PES has been a long-time champion of EU membership for the region, including hosting a programme of events and meetings in the Western Balkans in recent years to support their developing European orientation.

Chairing the meeting, PES president Sergei Stanishev said:

“It is clear that the heroic efforts of governments in both Tirana and Skopje to prepare their countries for EU accession negotiations are finally bearing fruit. It will benefit not only the security and stability of the region, but also the whole of Europe, for both countries to take their rightful place at the EU table.”

On the recent deal between Mr Zaev and Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras, resolving the name dispute between the two countries, Mr Stanishev added:

“We are proud of our role in facilitating the historic agreement between the two countries after many years of dispute, including hosting bilateral meetings between Zoran and Alexis, culminating in our leaders’ summit last month in Sofia.

“The entire progressive family stands behind them on their path to reconciliation, and we look forward to the agreement being finalised so that the barrier to EU and NATO membership is removed for FYR Macedonia.”

At the meeting today, both Mr Tsipras and Mr Zaev thanked the PES, progressive European Commissioners and Mr Stanishev personally for their support in achieving the deal.

Other participants in the meeting:
António Costa, prime minister of Portugal
Stefan Löfven, prime minister of Sweden
Joseph Muscat, prime minister of Malta
Peter Pellegrini, prime minister of Slovakia
Pedro Sánchez, prime minister of Spain
Udo Bullman MEP, president of the S&D group
Federica Mogherini, EU high representative for foreign & security policy
Frans Timmermans, first vice-president of the European Commission
Maroš Šefčovič, vice-president of the European Commission
Pierre Moscovici, commisisoner
Karl-Heinz Lambertz, president of the Committee of the Regions