Thursday

20th Feb 2020

Juncker: 'Historic mistake' against Balkan EU hopefuls

The EU institutional leadership lashed out against member states for having denied Albania and North Macedonia a chance to advance in their EU membership aspirations.

"Both countries passed their exams, I can't say that about our member states," EU council president Donald Tusk told reporters in Brussels on Friday (18 October).

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European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker made similar statements, describing the French-led blockade against the two Balkan states as "a historic error."

"If the EU is to be respected in the world, it has to stick to its promises," said Juncker.

A French-led blockade against the two Balkan states, partly supported by Denmark and the Netherlands, was made following lengthy talks among the 28 member states at their summit in Brussels late Thursday evening.

North Macedonia's president Stevo Pendarovski said the country now had to face a new reality.

"In these moments, the last thing we need is to direct our dissatisfaction to certain EU member states and waste our energy in creating political tension," he said, in a veiled reference to France.

French bread and butter

But French president Emmanuel Macron on Friday doubled up and defended his opposition towards the two countries.

"If it doesn't work properly at 27, how could it work better at 29, 30, 32? We are too slow, we need to reform ourselves before opening up," he said.

He said EU states that refused to increase the EU budget cannot then demand other hopefuls like Albania and North Macedonia to join the union.

"If you have a slice of bread there is much butter and if you have more bread then you have less butter and then it just tastes like bread," he said.

Most EU states had supported North Macedonia's accession talks, while backing for Albania was less strong.

Critics argued that North Macedonia should had been allowed to pass onto the next phase with Albania but Macron and Germany's Angela Merkel opposed it.

"I believe this would have been a deadly political fault, you would have seen a social and political unrest, unprecedented not only in Albania but in all countries with Albanian speaking minorities," Macron said.

Merkel drew other comparisons, claiming strong cultural ties between the two countries.

"There were several countries that were in favour of dealing with both together, as I said, we didn't have a vote on it. I for one thought it was and better to keep both of them together," she said.

EU fails to deliver on Albania and North Macedonia

Denmark, France and the Netherlands opposed opening talks on EU accession with Albania and North Macedonia in a blow that may invite greater Russian influence in the Balkan region.

Macron warned on danger of Balkans veto

France's veto on North Macedonia enlargement will endanger the Serbia-Kosovo peace process, a senior EU official has warned, but diplomats do not expect Macron to change his mind.

Opinion

To play big, Europe needs to get bigger

Enlargement has always propelled the EU's growth. On the contrary, every time the European Union closes its doors to potential new members, it chooses a path of decline, warns Ukraine's deputy PM, Dmytro Kuleba.

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