EU right to hesitate regarding North Macedonia?

The discussion about the EU's decision to once again block accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania continues. In addition to France, the Netherlands and Denmark had also opposed the commencement of talks. Some commentators find Macron's reluctance understandable.

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Vecer (MK) /

We don't yet belong in the EU

The EU is right not to trust North Macedonia, writes news website Vecer about its own country:

“The EU can't afford to accept such malignant tissue, which is unable either to implement reforms or to find a way out of its profound social and economic crises. ... The question isn't whether we can change our name and sign a bilateral agreement, it's whether we're institutionally able to implement real reforms that will free us from a mentality of subservience harking back to the Ottoman Empire, where the pasha rules as he pleases, the laws aren't worth the paper they're written on and corruption and crime are what defines the government.”

Club Z (BG) /

Macron's stance is understandable

Club Z also shows understanding for Macron's doubts regarding further EU expansion:

“Could Macron be right after all? And isn't Bulgaria perhaps one of the reasons for that? ... The very fact that Bulgaria and Romania are still under the EU Commission's control mechanism speaks for itself. The justice system in these countries must continue to be monitored. Romania could even face Article 7 proceedings. ... However, there are not only problems with the new and future members. Poland and Hungary are in continual conflict with the EU over their national laws - despite having started their reforms first, even before the fall of the Iron Curtain.”

Avgi (GR) /

Athens unmoved by dirty game

The leftist daily Avgi fears that the hard-won name agreement between Greece and North Macedonia could be in danger:

“A possible strengthening of the VMRO nationalists would mean a return to the 'good old days' when our neighbour to the north tried to present itself to the world as 'Macedonia' while our country tried to prevent this. The fact that the EU is not fulfilling its commitments endangers the erga omnes obligation [the obligation to use the new name internationally and domestically] and threatens to catapult us back to the irrational state of affairs of the last thirty years. It's incomprehensible that Athens has looked on impassively at this dirty game being played out in Brussels.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

Balkans once more threatened by ethnic conflicts

The Neue Zürcher Zeitung sees the danger of the region being destabilised once again:

“If the prospect of accession disappears, ethnic-national 'integration' will resurface in Southeastern Europe. For example in the form of the unification of Albania and Kosovo: with Albin Kurti as Kosovo's head of government, Tirana would already have a partner who has set unification as a long-term goal. The situation is similar with the Serbs in Bosnia and Herzegovina: Milorad Dodik, the president of the Serb-dominated part of the country, has been talking for years about uniting with Serbia. President Vučić's rejection of the idea is due to the fact that he is conducting accession negotiations with the EU and doesn't want to alarm Brussels. This, however, could change quickly if he comes to the conclusion that the negotiations are leading nowhere.”

Adevărul (RO) /

The wrong time for this discussion

In his blog with Adevărul, journalist Cristian Unteanu fears the decision will have serious consequences:

“Was now the right time to discuss whether and under what conditions the next wave of expansion should take place? On the contrary, it was probably the best moment to sow doubts and dissatisfaction after promises had been made to the countries of the Western Balkans one after the other for years. ... Macron's demand that the accession process should be 'reversible' means that any chapter can be reopened again if the situation changes. A prospect that in itself means that the technical process can at any time become a permanent confrontation between the countries and their interests.”

Dnevnik (SI) /

This isn't about expansion

The blockade highlights the EU's underlying problems, Dnevnik analyses:

“France's President Emmanuel Macron has actually just lifted the veil that concealed a huge wart on the face of the greater European family. ... The problem is not a lack of expansion strategy that justifies Macron's stubbornness. Anyway, this process is nearly over, because the EU can't expand any further than North Macedonia, Albania, Montenegro and Serbia. The problems include internal division, a lack of vision in their cooperation, the avoidance of challenges, a lack of seeking joint projects and the attempt to divide the members into a first and a second class. The problem is a growing Euro-scepticism, which is also due to a disregard of one's own principles.”

Lidové noviny (CZ) /

A mosaic of differences between Germany and France

The fact that the start of accession talks has been postponed is a sign of growing disagreement between Macron and Merkel, Lidové noviny observes:

“This is about common European policy and Germany and France's motor function. This motor is stalling more and more frequently. Little by little, a mosaic of differing stances on the part of Germany and France is being revealed. Paris has pushed through the rejection of the start of accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania against Germany's opposing position.”

Le Soir (BE) /

West Balkans are not Europe's backyard

France's president should rethink his stance, Le Soir writes:

“Paris is calling for a reform of the enlargement process before it says 'yes' to the two candidates. That's nothing new and there are good reasons for this. But the timing is suspect because it bespeaks a need to pander to public opinion, which is sceptical about these nations even though they are clearly pro-European. But how long will they remain that way? This question will be discussed at the summit. President Macron, who wants to be Europe's leader, can still rectify his stance. Will it take a new explosion of violence in the Balkans for people to remember that these countries aren't in Europe's backyard, they are a room in the house?”

Večer (SI) /

Government in Skopje left looking bad

After the blockade the leading politicians of both countries face a difficult few hours, Večer comments:

“This is particularly true of Macedonia's head of government Zoran Zaev. With the agreement with Greece to change the country's name despite the scepticism of the citizens, he has put all his political capital into having the long-awaited date for the start of Macedonia's accession negotiations set for before the end of this year. ... With France's decision the EU has also lost more of its already reduced credibility among the citizens of both countries. Especially in northern Macedonia, where citizens are disappointed not only by the EU's actions but also by those of the Zaev government.”