Croatia to revive Albania and N Macedonia EU entry talks
Croat Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said it wanted to boost aspiring members’ readiness and convince French President Emmanuel Macron at a May summit.
Plenkovic met Macron in Paris last week to discuss EU enlargement and sounded upbeat about establishing common ground.
Following a meeting with Charles Michel, the new president of the European Council, Plenkovic said he thought there could be an “evolution of the French position” and they could “satisfy some of [France’s] reservations” on possible enlargement, adding “being one of the countries in this part of Europe, we have a responsibility to promote and support our neighbouring countries … to get closer to the European Union”.
Croatia, which was the most recent country to join the EU in 2013, holds the EU presidency until July.
“We’d like to find a solution unblocking the process with Albania and North Macedonia by the time of the Zagreb summit,” Plenkovic told the media. “We have a chance to strengthen our influence in Europe and we feel responsible for supporting the European path of our neighbours in the region.”
Macron opposed both countries’ moves to begin EU membership talks in early 2020 by vetoing the timetable in October. The centrist president said the bloc needed to tighten its vetting of new members to ensure adequate respect for the rule of law, in possible reference to the quasi-democratic regimes in Poland and Hungary.
Macron’s veto, which had Dutch support, exposed a disagreement with Germany and most of the EU nations which see the promise of entry as a means to ease volatility in the Balkans.
The EU snub led to the resignation this month of North Macedonia’s prime minister, Zoran Zaev, who saw his proposed route to membership blocked.
Croatia plans to hold an EU summit with Western Balkan leaders in Zagreb on May 7.
The European Commission this month plans to propose changes to the EU’s accession process.
The long-term EU budget talks are being led by Michel, who Plenkovic praised as the most neutral broker.
Plenkovic said Croatia would “try to find an adequate balance” between member states that wanted to cap European Union spending at 1 per cent of gross national income of the bloc, and those looking to spend more to maintain the current EU subsidies.
The Croatian prime minister said Zagreb did not support cutting investment in the Balkans.
Croatia is opening to open up the Balkans. Picture credit: Wikimedia