How to Understand France’s ‘Bad Cop’ Role in the Balkans

Fourth, Paris took the opportunity at the summit to publish a new national strategy for the Western Balkan region, acknowledging a retreat and a lack of interest over the last decade after strong involvement in the 1990s and the beginning of the 2000s with NATO's Kosovo force KFOR in particular.

However, save for the new involvement of the French Agency for Development (AFD) in the region, this strategy mostly encompasses elements already being implemented, such as the efforts on small arms control in the frame of the Berlin Process, the formation of custom agents, or stronger cooperation on security, migrations and radicalisation.

Therefore, it is legitimate to wonder what kind of role France intends to play in the region in the coming months and years, accounting for the fact that President Macron made crystal clear in Sofia in May 2018, and then again by blocking the opening of accession negotiations for Albania and North Macedonia in June 2018, that he was against any move towards enlargement on the grounds that the EU needed to reform before accepting any new member.

In a recent answer to French senator Helene Conway's question, Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian stated that France was opposed to the lifting of the visa regime for Kosovo, acknowledging but disagreeing with the position of the European Commission and the European Parliament, which both want it to be lifted.

Le Drian underlined that as far as corruption and the rule of law were concerned, there had been too few efforts to address them by the Kosovo authorities, and it was too recent to assess them and agree to visa liberalisation.

Meanwhile, as far as Albania and North Macedonia are concerned, it seems very likely that France, and maybe the Netherlands and...

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