EU Enlargement Struggle: French ‘Non’ to Balkan Expansion Divides the Union

Written by | Monday, November 25th, 2019

EU members wrangled over the rules for joining the Union on Tuesday (19 November), after the 17-18 October summit failed to reach a decision of opening accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania, with France’s Emmanuel Macron’s position having been the major stumbling block for opening accession talks with these two Western Balkan countries. France’s European Affairs Minister, Amélie de Montchalin, insisted that Paris is not the only member state who wants to strengthen EU rules before admitting Western Balkan candidates, saying that “the European perspective of the Western Balkans is not in question, it is wanted, it is supported.”
However, a European diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, warned that France is in isolation because the vast majority of member states support a rapid opening for membership negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia. Finnish minister Tytti Tuppurainen, whose country chairs the European Council of member states, said that the members “didn’t have a vote on the French proposal,” adding that “today we wanted to send a full commitment to the region and our full commitment to the enlargement policy.” Italian Minister for European Affairs, Vincenzo Amendola, added that his country has “no problem in discussing any paper” but “the central objective” must be to open membership negotiations with these two countries.
Meanwhile, the Czech Republic, Austria, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia and Italy also said that “the consolidation of Europe cannot be completed without the Western Balkans,” urging members to open accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia in March 2020. The latest controversy over EU enlargement policy was started earlier this month when French President Emmanuel Macron raised eyebrows across the Western Balkan region when, in an interview with the Economist, he explained his tough opposition. Referring to Bosnia as a “ticking time bomb” threatened by Islamist fighters returning from Syria, Macron said other EU members also want to reject Albania, but were hiding behind France.

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