EU ‘failure’ as it snubbed North Macedonia: ‘Still disappointed and angry’

EU: Tusk ‘blocking North Macedonia and Albania bids a mistake’

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Brussels chiefs are set to meet representatives of North Macedonia in Slovenia today to discuss its attempt to join the EU. The enlargement summit will also involve all the other five Western Balkans nations – Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia. An EU delegation, including European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, will reaffirm their commitment to accession talks with the six countries.

However, EU chiefs will not commit to a timeline for the bloc’s much-delayed enlargement process, according to reports.

Speaking at the summit, Ms von der Leyen, head of the EU’s executive, said: “We want them in the European Union, we are one European family.

“We share the same history, we share the same values, and I’m deeply convinced we share the same destiny too.”

Amid Brussels’ current pleasantries towards the Western Balkans, an unearthed account reveals the bitter taste the EU’s treatment of the region left in the mouths of some leaders.

North Macedonia’s Prime Minister Zoran Zaev spoke to Politico in November 2019, a month after joint talks for his country and Albania to become EU member states were halted.

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French President Emmanuel Macron torpedoed the idea of negotiations, much to the dismay of many of his EU colleagues.

Speaking about the snub led by Mr Macron, Mr Zaev said: “We are still disappointed, angry and a little bit frustrated.

“Because we got a promise from the European Union that when we deliver, they would deliver — and they failed.”

In contrast to Mr Macron, many in the EU considered that North Macedonia had kept up its side of the bargain.

This had included changing its name to the ‘Republic of North Macedonia’ to end a decades-old dispute with Greece.

The naming row had previously blocked its hopes of becoming a member of the EU and the NATO security alliance.

Albania also conducted a review of its judges to crack down on corruption in its legal system.

Following Mr Macron’s veto of the talks, Donald Tusk, then-President of the European Council, issued a heartfelt appeal to the two nations.

He said: “Let me be very clear: North Macedonia and Albania are not to blame for this.

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“I would like to send a message to our Macedonian and Albanian friends: Please do not give up.

“I fully understand your frustration, because you did your share and we haven’t.”

France has helped stop the launch of EU talks with North Macedonia and Albania several times.

Mr Macron has claimed his opposition to negotiations rests on his wish to overhaul the EU’s enlargement process.

The French President has called for more transparency and has taken issue with the fact that candidate countries deemed to have reneged on their commitments can only have their accession bids frozen rather than reversed.

The Western Balkans was hit by several wars throughout the Nineties, sparked by tensions between the region’s various ethnic groups.

Mr Zaev told Politico that the area had only recently been a “ticking time bomb” and that leaders were actively making efforts so that the EU’s decision didn’t affect the situation.

He said: “We don’t want to allow that kind of historical mistake [to give rise] to nationalism, radicalism, populism, to open again inter-ethnical problems here in my country, but also in the broader region.”
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