The Latest: EU backs membership talks for Albania, Macedonia
BRUSSELS – The Latest on the political situation in the Balkans (all times local):
The European Commission is recommending that the EU launch membership talks with Albania and Macedonia, even as enthusiasm for enlargement of the 28-nation bloc wanes.
The EU's executive arm, which monitors reform progress among countries hoping to join, said Tuesday that the two are on the right path.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said the recommendations "are based on firm, strict assessment of progress made."
She added that "this decision to recommend opening negotiations is an encouragement to these countries to continue on the path of reforms."
Macedonia's membership prospects have been held up by a dispute with Greece over the tiny Balkan country's name.
EU member states must endorse the European Commission's proposal before talks can start.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker is warning that the volatile Balkans could face a return to war if countries in the region have no hope of joining the European Union.
Juncker told EU lawmakers Tuesday: "I don't want a return to war in the Western Balkans."
He said: "If we remove from these countries, in this extremely complicated region, I should say tragically, a European perspective, we are going to live what we already went through in the 1990s."
EU and Balkan leaders meet in Bulgaria next month, but the EU is unlikely to invite any country to join soon.
The prospect of EU membership has proved a driving force for reform in the Balkans, which was torn apart by war as former Yugoslavia broke up.