“Albania is attempting the big step of EU accession”, headlines Il Sole 24 Ore following the European Commission's decision to recommend granting candidate status to the Balkan country in its report on priorities for enlargement in 2014, issued on October 16.

Brussels’ assessment of Albania found that the country has made significant progress with regard to political and economic requirements, although it “needs to meet further key priorities, with particular focus on administration reform, the rule of law and fundamental rights”. Albania's candidacy will now have to be approved by the European council, where Il Sole expects a “heated debate” on the issue —

The UK is grumbling, highlighting the weakness of the fight against corruption [in Albania], while Germany, the Netherlands, Finland and Denmark doubt the country’s ability to defend the progress that has been made. Italy, however, welcomes Balkan enlargement, if only for its economic interest. The last census counted over 400 Italian businesses in the country.

In its report, the Commission also recommended for the fifth time that accession negotiations should begin with with Macedonia, however the Greek government is bracing itself to use its veto yet again, writes Gazeta Wyborcza Athens is demanding that the former Yugoslav republic change its name to avoid confusion with the Greek province of Macedonia. In a gesture of good will, authorities in Skopje have already changed the country's flag and its constitution, but refuse to compromise on the country’s name. According to GW, Nikola Gruevski's “authoritarian” government “is using the conflict to generate national support”, a tactic that enables it to avoid dealing with other issues. The newspaper continues —

While the nationalistic hysteria muzzles public debate, the country’s real problems remain unsolved. They include the  passing of this year’s budget after opposition MPs had been thrown out of parliament, and an agreement signed between the government and the opposition on the foot of pressure from EU, which only remains an agreement on paper.

The daily warns that in the wake of

another year of such rule, the European Commission may not be able to renew its recommendation that Macedonia meets all political conditions for accession.