Published On: Tue, Oct 15th, 2019

EU divided: France ‘totally isolated’ as Brussels row over expansion erupts | World | News

EU ambassadors met to discuss the opening of talks for North Macedonia’s the EU, ahead of a meeting in Luxembourg on October 15. vFrance warned negotiations on the ascension of the western Balkan nations would “undermine credibility” in the bloc if it took place int he near future. In order to be rewarded with ascension into the bloc, all 28 member states must unanimously agree.

Paris argued the EU needed to resolve its own internal problems – including Brexit – before admitting new member states into the bloc.

According to a report by POLITICO, citing three EU diplomats, Paris’ envoy Philippe Léglise-Costa was the only delegate to speak out against beginning the accession process for Balkan nation.

One diplomat said the meeting proved France was totally isolated in its opposition to the country, which for many years was blighted by corruption and crime.

But other EU diplomats were happy to begin ascension talks after the country took steps to curb problems in the area – making it eligible for ascension talks to begin.

One diplomat told the publication: “Whoever blocks the EU accession process now bears the responsibility for the possible destabilisation of our neighbourhood.

“A very broad majority in the EU is in favour of opening accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania.”

“We are counting on Paris to reconsider its position and not to isolate itself for internal political reasons.

“Nothing will be won by another postponement, but much can be lost by creating a strategic vacuum in the south-east of Europe.”

READ MORE: EU split: France goes to war over bloc enlargement

“We are asking them to make additional efforts.

“Negotiation cannot be opened in October 2019 – we will need to reassess the situation somewhere in 2020.”

And many member states believe Russia, China or Turkey could take advantage of a “strategic vacuum” in the troubled region if the EU fails to increase prospects in the area.

But, despite opposition, North Macedonia remains “very optimistic” about its chances of securing EU membership.

Radmila Sekerinska, the country’s deputy prime minister, said the chances of ssecuring a place in the bloc are “high”.

But she warned there could still be another disappointment yet that would “empower autocrats and populists”.

She said: “We are very optimistic and we’re very ambitious.

“We are not expecting membership tomorrow.

“What we are expecting is to start the difficult and challenging process of accession.”

In June, talks were postponed until October after ministers failed to agree on a date to start the process, which is expected to be lengthy and time consuming.

The EU’s presidents, Jean-Claude Juncker, Donald Tusk and David Sassoli, as well as Ursula von der Leyen, who will take over the European Commission next month, have all said accession talks should start “no later” than this month.

The date for talks on Tuesday will take place just days before an EU summit in Brussels on October 17 and 18.

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