French gift for Macedonia: No EU accession talks


French European Affairs Minister Nathalie Loiseau warned Macedonia that it will likely be left without an invitation to begin EU accession talks this summer. Loiseau welcomed the fact that the Macedonian Government accepted to change the name of the country under Greek pressure, but underlined that this was not main objective to open accession talks and that Macedonia will have to meet strict reform criteria as well.

In an interview with MIA, Loiseau says that Macedonia can open accession talks only if all criteria are met, but also makes a point previously raised by French President Emmanuel Macron, that the European Union itself teetering on the edge is in dire need of internal reforms first, before it can think about adding new members. Macron has warned against watering down the EU too much by enlarging it toward new countries before the existing members can build deeper institutional links.

France and the Netherlands were the most outspoken opponents of the opening of EU accession talks with Macedonia last summer. Later Denmark joined the chorus of opposition. Then the European Council decided to postpone the decision for June 2019 when the report card of Macedonia will be examined. Minister Loiseau raised concerns over the massive corruption in Macedonia, but also over the rampant reports of nepotism in the public sector in the past months.

Loiseau called for patience until the EU has time to evaluate that Macedonia has really implemented reforms, beyond merely passing laws, and has raised specific concerns such as the long delay in the appointment of the Anti-Corruption Commission. She would not respond positively to a question whether the country would be allowed to open accession talks as things stand now.