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Emmanuel Macron at the European Council

Albania and North Macedonia Out in the Cold

ZAGREB, October 22nd, 2019 – The European Council meeting held on October 20th proved to be a nightmare for the Western Balkans contenders, Albania and North Macedonia. The duo was expecting to be greenlit for accession talks, but Emmanuel Macron apparently had other plans.

With Merkel stepping down in 2021, Macron is clearly trying to position himself as her heir for the European throne, hence the hard bargain on the enlargement plans. Albania and North Macedonia have met all imposed preparatory measures, yet they have fallen victim to Macron’s powerplay.

All talks of enlargement have been ceased until the Western Balkans Summit in Zagreb. This summit will be the crown of Croatia’s EU Council Presidency, and a consensus is expected there. North Macedonia and Albania have until May 2020 to devise flawless argumentation strategies in order to persuade all European leaders of their readiness. Beyond that, it is out of their control.

Croatian PM Plenkovic considers this stoppage a mistake as there is no need for such a drastic approach. He believes all shortcomings and inadequacies can be better remedied once the accession procedure has begun.

However, the Western Balkans Summit during the HR PRES 2020 is a fair indication of good news for the region. In 2000, Croatia hosted a Summit in Zagreb gathering all EU leaders and it initiated accession considerations for five other countries in the region, including the aforementioned duo. Furthermore, only Croatia showed enough prowess to seal the deal and become a member state. It took 13 years of intense EU accession negotiations for Croatia to gain approval.

On that note, a summit is not held for minor or cosmetic operations, but for significant ones. On the other hand, past experiences have taught us time flows very slowly in the Balkans, accession-wise. Now, after 20 years, it remains to be seen if the duo will enter the accession procedure and how it will look like. Nevertheless, Albania and North Macedonia must be prepared for all outcomes, come May 2020.

Photo: © European Union, 2019

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