The EU has made a “historic mistake” that dangers destabilising the Balkans, senior officers warned Friday, after a handful of nations led by French President Emmanuel Macron once more blocked membership talks for North Macedonia and Albania.
There was widespread frustration and disappointment, notably amongst japanese European international locations eager to broaden the EU membership, on the failure of the 28 leaders to agree to begin formal accession negotiations with Skopje and Tirana.
Leaders had been deadlocked after some seven hours of heated backroom wrangling at a Brussels summit, with France alone in rejecting North Macedonia however joined by Denmark and the Netherlands in refusing Albania.
“It is a main historic mistake and I hope it’ll solely be short-term and will not turn into engraved within the collective reminiscence as a historic mistake,” European Fee chief Jean-Claude Juncker mentioned.
Johannes Hahn, the European commissioner who has led efforts to push the 2 international locations to reform to suit EU norms, mentioned it had left the bloc’s credibility broken “not solely within the Western Balkans however past”.
“It is a matter of utmost disappointment,” he tweeted.
“To refuse acknowledgement of confirmed progress can have unfavorable penalties, together with the chance of destabilisation of the Western Balkans, with full influence on the EU.”
North Macedonian President Stevo Pendarovski urged his individuals to push on with reform regardless of the frustration, whereas his Overseas Minister Nikola Dimitrov urged the EU to come back clear about its true intentions.
“If there isn’t any extra consensus on the European way forward for the Western Balkans… the residents should know,” he tweeted.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel mentioned EU leaders would look once more on the matter earlier than a summit with Western Balkans leaders in Zagreb early subsequent 12 months.
The summit impasse got here days after EU ministers hit an analogous deadlock at talks in Luxembourg – following two earlier delays by EU international locations on making a call.
Other than France, all the opposite EU states settle for that North Macedonia has made sufficient progress on reforms – together with altering its title from Macedonia to appease Greece – to begin talks.
However Albania has much less assist, with the Netherlands and Denmark becoming a member of France in voicing critical reservations about its efforts towards corruption and organised crime.
Austrian Chancellor Brigitte Bierlein mentioned the summit failure was “extraordinarily regrettable”.
“I’ve spoken to the 2 prime ministers to precise my nice disappointment, and they’re additionally extraordinarily disenchanted,” she instructed reporters in Brussels.
“This isn’t a superb signal for the solidarity of the EU or the steadiness of the area.”
EU Council President Donald Tusk instructed reporters he felt “actually embarrassed” however urged the 2 international locations to not lose coronary heart, saying he had “completely little question” they might sooner or later be a part of the bloc.
“Each international locations, they handed their exams, I can not say this about our member states,” Tusk mentioned.
The European Fee has mentioned each international locations have completed sufficient to not less than start talks, however Macron now says this could not occur till the entire accession course of has been reformed, arguing that it doesn’t work correctly.
However diplomats suspect the French are taking part in robust for home political causes linked to immigration, and there’s frustration that Macron seems to be attempting to maneuver the goalposts.
“These international locations deserve it, they fulfil the standards, the momentum is true,” mentioned one diplomatic supply.
“It is not honest to vary the principles of the sport in the midst of the sport.”
One other mentioned “there is not any logic to it. It is incoherent – an excuse.”
After the sooner failure in Luxembourg one other diplomat accused France of “repeating the identical silly arguments many times”, warning Paris would bear “accountability for the results of this”.
Politicians in North Macedonia and Albania have warned that their individuals’s endurance with the EU shouldn’t be limitless and repeated rejections threat emboldening nationalist and pro-Russian forces.