Politico: EU leaders deadlock over membership talks for North Macedonia, Albania18 October 2019 | 09:25 | FOCUS News Agency
French President Emmanuel Macron strongly opposed moving forward with membership talks and ultimately prevailed over other leaders, including European Council President Donald Tusk and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who were in favor.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte supported a potential compromise that would have allowed talks to begin with North Macedonia while forcing Albania to wait, but in the end leaders also could not agree on separating the bids by the two countries.
EU leaders had dangled the prospect of membership as an incentive for North Macedonia to settle a long-running dispute with Greece, which it did last year — in part by changing the country's name. But in the end those hopes were dashed — at least for now — leaving officials in Skopje, the capital, angry and deeply disappointed.
After EU ministers tried and failed to reach a deal on the enlargement issue at a meeting of the General Affairs Council earlier this week, Tusk put the matter on the agenda for the leaders' summit, hoping to pressure Macron.
France has cited procedural reasons for blocking the two countries, arguing that the EU’s entire accession system is in need of an overhaul. But Paris has also made clear its view that North Macedonia and Albania are not ready to begin the EU membership process. Supporters of putting the Balkan countries on the path to membership argued that both have fulfilled criteria set by the EU and that the bloc's credibility will be badly damaged it it fails to live up to its promises.
The discussion on enlargement of the EU came at the end of the first day of a European Council leaders' summit, at which the EU struck a tentative deal on the U.K.'s withdrawal from the bloc.
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