France Blocks EU Accession Talks With North Macedonia, Albania

European Union ministers have failed to reach a consensus on whether they should open membership talks with Albania and North Macedonia amid stiff opposition from France.

Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn said the meeting that the EU ministers held on Tuesday “was not a moment of glory for Europe” and he apologized to the citizens of the two Balkan countries.

Hahn says “the overwhelming majority” of EU member nations supported the European Commission’s recommendation to begin talks with both North Macedonia and Albania.

Paris is arguing that Albania and North Macedonia must implement additional reforms before talks can begin. It also says that the broader EU accession process must be made more demanding — and it must be reversible.

“The French are playing with fire,” one EU diplomat from the majority group that supports launching accession talks with both countries told the Financial Times. “This could threaten the stability of the region. It’s a very serious thing.”

According to the British newspaper, EU diplomats said Paris stood alone in its opposition to North Macedonia, which has initiated a series of reforms demanded by the EU, including changing its name to end a decades-old dispute with neighboring Greece.