The new approach of the European Commission with regard to North Macedonia and Albania has taken into account France’s objections to accession and in an optimistic scenario, the two countries could receive the “green light” for starting the accession talks in as early as March.
This was MEP Ilhan Kyuchyuk (MRF/Renew Europe) comment to journalists in Strasbourg. Kyuchyuk is the Standing Rapporteur of the European Parliament for North Macedonia. His statement was made after the European Commission proposed a new approach to countries wishing to apply for EU membership. The new approach came about after France blocked the start of formal accession negotiations with the two countries three months ago. The European Commission is now discussing with the MEPs the methodology that should push the process forward. To this end, the EU Council, should take the decision.
Some of France’s proposals have already been included in the methodology itself – to make it possible to revise closed chapters; rule of law to be covered throughout the process, Kyuchyuk explained.
In his words, the optimistic scenario is that both countries would get a “green light” before the EU-Western Balkans Summit in Zagreb in May, and Brussels to allocate more funds for the two countries – 50 million euros for North Macedonia and 18 million for Albania. The aim is “to have a much earlier involvement of the countries from the region in the European policies”, including the Green Deal and digital transformation.
“Their problem, however, is that we have provided them with a format to participate through the so-called Berlin Process giving them additional resources, which raises the doubt that we want to keep them in the corner. We do not let them in the European Union, we do not give “green light” to them, we feed them with something while they are in an “expecting” position. And it’s a position that they do not feel comfortable in”, said Kyuchyuk answering the question of whether the increased access to European funding would reduce the political will for reforms in the accession process of the two countries.
A peculiarity of the new methodology is that it envisions that the first negotiating chapter, “Justice”, would be the first one to open and the last one to close, regardless of how long the negotiations last. “Whether a candidate-country is negotiating for 10 years or 15 years, the rule of law would be a topic throughout the whole process”, Kyuchyuk said. Another feature is that the European Commission reserves the right to reopen already closed negotiating chapters if it considers that there is back-tracking in a certain area.
Brussels recommended the negotiation talks with Albania and North Macedonia to be started almost two years ago, but after long delays in taking the decision, France and other countries stood against the move. In the case of Skopje, only Paris was against it. This led to the resignation of Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, to caretaker government and scheduling snap elections for April 12th. The disappointment in Skopje came from the fact that the country made painful steps and even changed its name in the name of Euro-Atlantic integration, but managed to achieve the desired progress only on its path towards NATO (and not the EU).