French President Emmanuel Macron has stated the EU accession negotiation process with Albania and North Macedonia will open once the process has been reformed and as long as there is confidence that it works.
“When we talk in March, we will see what the European Commission says, what progress the countries have made, if there is confidence it will work, we should be able to start negotiations”, he said.
Speaking in Germany at the Munich Security Conference, Macron stated that he does not like to use the term “French veto”, stating that there were many EU countries opposed to the decision taken not to open talks in October.
He added that while the Western Balkans becoming a part of Europe is a strategic objective, the conditions for opening negotiations must include the rules changing and becoming less technocratic and non-transparent. Macron also reiterated that the process must be reversible and that the EU can “walk away” if it does not work.
“We must tell them that they can join once they fulfil the conditions”, concluded the French president.
During an informal EU-Western Balkans meeting taking place between 16-17 February, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said it is the common geostrategic interest to have the Western Balkans as close as possible to the EU. She added that accession talks should start “if possible before the Zagreb summit in March, a contradiction to Macron’s more measured approach.
“We want to pave a way for North Macedonia and Albania to start the accession talks, if possible before the Zagreb summit. We are preparing an investment package and hope very much the Council will give a green light for this prospect,” she said.