MUNICH — French President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday gave the clearest sign to date that he is ready to drop his objections to North Macedonia and Albania starting EU membership talks.
Macron said the European Commission “did a remarkable job” in coming up with a proposal to reform the bloc’s enlargement process, taking into account his own misgivings. The next step would be to look at the Commission’s assessment of the two countries’ progress in reports due to be released next month, he said.
“We must see what the Commission will say on the state of the advances we expect to take place in Albania and North Macedonia,” Macron said in a question-and-answer session at the Munich Security Conference, an annual gathering of politicians, military leaders and diplomats from around the world.
“If the results are positive and trust is established we should be in a position to open, afterward, negotiations,” he added.
The Commission has already said on multiple occasions that the two countries have met the criteria to begin membership talks. But France and other EU members have previously taken issue with such assessments.
Without naming any countries, Macron also accused other EU governments of “great hypocrisy” in their attitude to would-be members from the Western Balkans. He said those governments publicly encouraged the start of membership talks while declaring privately that the prospective members would not meet EU standards for many years to come.
“I prefer realpolitik here. To anchor the Balkans [to the EU] we have to invest there… instead of saying we are opening negotiations, with a lot of hypocrisy because all those who say we need to open negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia then say, ‘But be careful, they’re not suitable for membership for another 10 or 15 years.’ We’re not reasonable,” Macron said.