European Union ministers failed to reach agreement on opening accession talks with Macedonia in face of strong opposition from France. Finnish European Affairs Minister Tytti Tuppurainen said that “unfortunately there were few member states that were hesitant and one member state that was particularly opposed”.
A last ditch push to decouple Macedonia from Albania did not happen. While France is opposed to Macedonia and Albania, Albania has a large group of countries who want to block its accession talks, most notably the Netherlands and Denmark, who are seen as more open toward Macedonia.
So decoupling was seen as the best chance for Macedonia to isolate France and get ahead, while leaving Albania behind. But a number of countries, including Greece, were hugely opposed to this idea for obvious reasons. Albania who is well behind Macedonia in every aspect would only hinder and slowdown Macedonia as seen in today’s vote.
And today, Italian Europe Minister Vincenzo Amendola, said that it is not happening.
The intent of Italy is that we begin accession talks with Albania and Macedonia. As far as the issue of their separation is concerned, there is no way for us to separate them, said Amendola.
If this position stands, Macedonia will face a considerably stronger opposition in the coming days, that it would have standing alone. The issue is now put forward at the top level – before the heads of states and governments, who also need to discuss the weighty questions of Brexit and the Turkish incursion in Syria. It is possible that President Macron will be persuaded to change his mind at this level, but for this to happen, it would have been much better to have a positive decision reached at the level of ministers.
It is expected that France could be persuaded to give the accession talks date in exchange for a wholesale change to the way the talks are conducted. France wants to introduce a model under which a candidate country could be sent back to re-negotiate chapters which were already seen as closed if it suffers backsliding. French Secretary of State for European Affairs Amelie de Montchalin insisted that she will continue to discuss the opening of accession talks, and the French request to reform the enlargement process. “This is a long and frustrating process which does not create confidence. This is an excellent opportunity for Europe to reform the entire procedure of accession”, Montchalin said.
In other words, this is how the ‘accession date’ looks like through a video: