North Macedonia and Albania have received promising news after updated progress reports published by the EU's executive body said both countries had delivered results and appeared ready to open EU accession talks.
The European Commission said the two Balkan states had "stepped up their work and delivered further tangible and sustainable results in the key areas" since June 2018.
Combined with the new EU enlargement methodology, the latest progress reports bolster the chances of Albania and North Macedonia of getting a date for starting accession negotiations.
French President Emmanuel Macron, who took part in blocking the opening of talks with Skopje and Tirana in October, said last month he was willing to allow them to begin membership talks if the European Commission gave them a positive review in March.
"The European Commission stands firmly by its recommendations to open accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia, and I hope that the Member States will take a positive decision in the coming weeks," Enlargement Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi wrote.
He said the two countries had reformed their economies, judicial systems, and other areas in preparation for meeting EU standards.
EU member governments are expected to decide later this month whether to offer to open membership talks.
In May, a summit in Croatia is scheduled with EU leaders and all six Western Balkan candidate countries: Serbia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and North Macedonia.
North Macedonia’s pro-European government, led by the Social Democrats, expects a difficult electoral fight to remain in power in the April 12 general elections.