Union: France threatens blockade on Balkan enlargement



LUXEMBOURG (Reuters) – France remains uncompromising in its refusal to open negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia for EU membership, threatening to use its veto in this "endless soap opera" "enlargement.

EU affairs ministers are meeting in Luxembourg Tuesday to try for the third time since June 2018 to open the way to Skopje and Tirana, a prospect that the vast majority of the twenty-eight support from the United States.

France, isolated, believes that neither the EU nor the candidate countries are ready.

"It seems to us that today (…) it is too early to launch legally in this process of enlargement", it is pointed out to the French presidency.

France seeks "balance" in order to send "a signal favorable to these countries" on the fact that they "will be part of the European Union one day", it adds.

For Emmanuel Macron, anchoring the Western Balkans to the European Union "can not be at the expense of unity and coherence". He has stated several times in the past that "to open a new process of unconditional enlargement would not be serious".

Present in Luxembourg, the Secretary of State for European Affairs reiterated the French demand for a "deep reform" of the European enlargement procedures while Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia are hoping for integration.

Enlargement is "an endless soap opera," said Amelie de Montchalin. "Is the process effective? From our point of view, no."

Germany has proposed a compromise under which the European Union would launch talks on the 35 negotiating chapters with North Macedonia by the end of the year and give an agreement in principle to Albania to open negotiations, without setting a date.

"It is becoming increasingly difficult to provide a legitimate explanation" to the two candidate countries, says the European Commissioner for Enlargement, the Austrian Johannes Hahn.

"We have agreed (with these countries) on the measures to be taken and they have acted accordingly, it is now up to us to act accordingly," he told Reuters.

The Commissioner referred in particular to the reforms undertaken by Albania to clean up his judicial system and to the agreement between Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, which officially names the Republic of Macedonia of the North.

(Robin Emmott, Gabriela Baczynska in Luxembourg, Marine Pennetier and Michel Rose in Paris, Sophie Louet for the French version)

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