The high cost of strategic mistake

MEPs urge EU countries to act responsibly towards Skopje and Tirana

Photo: EPA People walk in front of the offices of the EU with logos reading 'EU for You', Skopje.

A week after a few EU leaders blocked the start of accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia, the prevailing opinion is that it was “a historic error”, as Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker stressed already. The failure to open negotiations with the two Balkan countries was a strategic mistake, MEPs said in a resolution adopted on 23 October by 412 votes in favour, 136 against and 30 abstentions.

MEPs regret the move by France, Denmark and the Netherlands to block the decision and say that Albania and North Macedonia have made considerable efforts over the last few years and meet the EU's criteria to start membership talks. Parliament also stressed that the “non-decision” by EU leaders damages the EU's credibility and sends a negative message to other possible candidate countries. It could also allow other foreign actors, whose activity might not be in line with EU values and interests, to engage more closely with both Albania and North Macedonia, MEPs added. They urge EU countries to act responsibly towards Albania and North Macedonia and to take a unanimous positive decision at the next meeting.

At the EU summit on 17-18 October, French President Emmanuel Macron led a group of leaders who blocked opening talks with Albania and North Macedonia, despite concerns over increasing Chinese and Russian influence in the Balkans.

The disappointment in Skopje was greater as this Balkan country reached last year a very disputed deal with Greece on changing its name, which was the condition for opening its path towards EU and NATO membership. Right after the EU summit, North Macedonian PM Zoran Zaev called for snap elections. Meeting leaders of major political parties, President Stevo Pendarovski announced last Monday that they all agreed on holding snap parliamentary election on 12 April next year, eight months ahead of the end of the current term. “We have a clear state consensus of all political leaders that despite the decision of the European Council … the Republic of North Macedonia should start negotiations (with the EU) as soon as possible,” Pendarovski said after the meeting. According to the law, Zaev will now have to step down from the post of prime minister in January, making way for a caretaker government that would include experts and some representatives of the opposition party, also in order to prepare for the election.

Meanwhile, on 22 October the US Senate voted overwhelmingly to ratify North Macedonia's entry into NATO as its 30th member. The country is expected to formally join the alliance at a NATO leaders meeting in December in London.



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