Week in Review: Testing Realities and Hot Potatoes


Was the European Council's decision not to open accession negotiations with the EU an act of historic self-harm? This is the argument made in one comment piece for Balkan Insight, originally published as part of BIRN's Western Balkans Stability Monitor.

France's veto on opening accession negotiations with Albania and - particularly - North Macedonia was a breach of faith, which has seriously damaged the EU's leverage in the region. In all likelihood, the move had more to do with internal EU posturing than enlargement itself. Most crucially perhaps, the French veto was an act of European self-harm: the open-ended accession process gave the EU plenty of leverage over aspiring candidates with no real obligation of actually allowing them to join. The EU was in a position to have its 'cake' and eat it; France decided to throw the 'cake' away.

Read more: Blocking Enlargement Is an Act of European Self-Harm (November 4, 2019)

Damage Control

French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris, France, 2019. Photo: EPA-EFE/IAN LANGSDON / POOL

While there is little doubt that France's obstinate decision has put its own, as well as the EU's, ability to shape south-east Europe in jeopardy, several EU policy experts examine what impact the French veto will have on the region itself. They argue that leaders in the region will feel less constrained in pursuing risky ideas which international actors have, to date, tried to block, while leaving the field open to other geopolitical actors.

However, they also provide suggestions for how the EU can limit the damage. France was very much in the minority when it blocked the opening of accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia. Other member-states thus have a crucial role...

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