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Tomche Makedonche 10-15-2019 06:32 PM

France objects to North Macedonia and Albania EU accession talks

[QUOTE][B]France objects to North Macedonia and Albania EU accession talks[/B]

Paris wants bloc’s enlargement process be made more demanding and reversible

Michael Peel in Brussels and Valerie Hopkins in Budapest yesterday

The prospect of the EU triggering enlargement talks with North Macedonia and Albania hung by a thread on Tuesday after France mounted fierce opposition to the Balkan countries joining the bloc.

EU foreign and Europe ministers were haggling in Luxembourg in a final effort to win agreement ahead of an EU summit this week where many member states want to launch the accession process for Skopje and Tirana as part of a strategic battle for the western Balkans.

But the French objections have laid bare tensions over the bloc’s stance on a region surrounded by EU countries in which rival powers including China, Russia and Turkey are vying for influence.

Paris argues that Albania and North Macedonia need to implement more reforms before talks can begin. It also says the wider EU accession process needs to be made more demanding and reversible.

“The French are playing with fire,” said one EU diplomat from the majority group that supports launching accession talks with both countries. “This could threaten the stability of the region. It’s a very serious thing.”

EU diplomats said Paris stood alone in its opposition to North Macedonia, which has initiated a series of reforms demanded by the EU, including changing its name to end a decades-old dispute with neighbouring Greece.

“We hope that in the end France will live up to its European leadership aspirations and join the EU consensus on North Macedonia,” said an official from another member state.

North Macedonia, which resolved “impossible” talks over its name last year and “made a democratic U-turn at home”, has been waiting for 14 years to open EU talks, the country’s foreign minister, Nikola Dimitrov, told the Financial Times. Decisions on negotiations were postponed last year and again this summer due to EU disunity.

“What’s at stake is EU enlargement policy and the European perspective for the Balkans itself. The question is if the EU will keep the lighthouse lit,” he said.

The debate over Albania is more nuanced, as countries other than France — including the Netherlands and Denmark — are sceptical because of fears about domestic political instability, organised crime and the stalling of some reforms. Albania undertook a painful judicial vetting procedure in the hope of moving towards EU membership.

Albania’s foreign affairs minister, Gent Cakaj, warned that blocking negotiations would diminish the EU’s role in the entire region and “risks undermining reformist forces in the region”. A negative decision would “embolden third actors who have been waiting in the wings for a long time”, he warned.

A further complication has been a division between countries opposed to “decoupling” the cases of North Macedonia and Albania and others prepared to accept a refusal for Tirana as the price of advancing Skopje’s case — a position diplomats said was attracting increasing support.

France, which has historically been sceptical about EU enlargement in general, argues that the accession process needs to be reviewed before admitting new countries, a tension Mr Cakaj dubbed “a false dilemma”.

Paris is not wrong to question the current state of the enlargement process, but it needs to give Skopje a green light, said Gerald Knaus, executive director of the European Stability Initiative, a Berlin-based think-tank focused on south-eastern Europe and enlargement.

He noted that according to the EU’s own assessment, North Macedonia is more prepared for membership than Serbia, which, along with Montenegro, is considered a “frontrunner” for accession. “The current accession process does not work,” he said.

Mr Knaus proposed a Balkan free trade zone modelled on the pre-accession experience of Austria and Sweden. He argued that Paris should consent to open talks with Skopje and then support the creation of a South-east European Economic Area, which would steer the countries towards the common market — without the promise of membership.

French president Emmanuel Macron’s administration faces the perceived political threat that far-right domestic political rivals could use enlargement to push scare stories about Balkan criminal gangs and an influx of Muslims from Albania.

Tomche Makedonche 10-15-2019 06:34 PM


[QUOTE][B]EU Ministers Fail To Approve Official Accession Talks With Albania, North Macedonia [/B]

European Union ministers have failed to give the go-ahead to begin membership negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia, another blow to the Western Balkan nations' hopes of a speedy accession process.

"It was not a moment of glory for Europe," Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn told reporters in Luxembourg on October 15 following a meeting of European affairs ministers.

Hahn added that an "overwhelming majority" of EU members supported the Commission's recommendation that talks begin but that they could not reach the required unanimous decision.

It was the third time -- following similar outcomes in June 2018 and June 2019 -- that the bloc's ministers failed to reach unanimity.

The issue will now be discussed by EU leaders when they meet in Brussels for an EU summit on October 17-18.

Several sources who asked not to be identified told RFE/RL that France played a key role in blocking the start of official accession talks with the two small nations.

Tytti Tuppurainen, Finland’s minister for European affairs, said after the meeting that "unfortunately, there were a few member states hesitant and one member state particularly against it."

"So, we were not able to reach that required unanimity in order to make the decision,"she added.

France and the Netherlands, in particular, have expressed reluctance to open the door to new members over concerns about corruption and the standards of the rule of law in some applicant nations.

French European Affairs Minister Amelie de Montchalin said that Paris did not want to separate Albania's case from that of North Macedonia, which has broader EU support, as suggested by Finland.

France "is not asking for anything new" and "is not saying no," de Montchalin told reporters after the meeting.

"We are just asking that criteria set back in June 2018 be fully applied," she added, citing reforms that she said Albania and North Macedonia had not yet completely undertaken.

However, other nations have expressed concerns that delays over membership could aid attempts by Russia or China to increase their influence in the region.

Germany's Minister for European Affairs Michael Roth warned that a "possible political vacuum" in the region "will be filled by other powers that certainly have little in common with democracy and the rule of law."[/QUOTE]

Risto the Great 10-15-2019 10:03 PM

Macedonia should have changed its name to "EU".

JPMKD 10-15-2019 11:09 PM

Good maybe this will wake people u......oh wait, no it won't......
I shoulda know when they bowed and became Fyromainians to not keep any hope up. I already ranted on this in the Germany thread.
But, very typical of EU, and typical on the carrot chasers....and Balkan boneheads. Speaking of which, how about those Bulgarians in the football match? That's just the kind of thing the EU types will look at and think "Why another country from that region?"
Not that The Central Balkan Republic (Yes, the CBRdonians!) has western Euro ideals anymore than the rest of the Balkans....

I think I'll go bother the neighbors with some sad guitar sounds.....(And maybe make that soundcloud account finally)

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