Published On: Mon, Oct 21st, 2019

Macron news: How North Macedonia snub hands huge boost to Russia and China | World | News

The French President was the only EU leader to oppose North Macedonia’s entry into the bloc whilst Paris was joined by Denmark and the Netherlands in thwarting Albania’s attempts to join the 28 current member states. Justifying the shock move, President Macron said the accession process itself had to be reformed and that the EU “should do more to help those countries develop, not just make pledges”. But this has angered North Macedonia President Zoran Zeav who claimed the country was “the victim of the EU’s historical mistake” after the decision was made. As a result, Zaev has now called a snap election in and announced his intention to resign, while Albainan Prime Minister Edi Rama has blamed internal EU issues for the decision.

For Balkan States, there is more at stake than just EU membership as Russia and China look to increase their influence in the region.

North Macedonia are pursuing stronger integration with the Western allies, already in accession talks to join NATO and will hope to see a solution to their EU issue soon.

This would help Balkan states like North Macedonia evade any outside influence from US rivals, with Donald Trump’s Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warning earlier this month: “The hearts and minds of North Macedonia citizens should guide your country forward, not Russian bots and trolls on social media.”

Pompeo also warned against “the risks of Chinese investment and sensitive technologies”, including “China’s bribe-heavy strategy for infrastructure deals”.

Internal issues in the six countries, such as ethnic tensions, corruption and deficient law-enforcement give arguments to European politicians sceptical about enlargement of the EU.

Concerns also surround the openness of some Balkan states to foreign investment, irrespective of strings attached and of compliance of their projects with EU policies.

Different areas have different political actors, often influenced by historic ties or religion. China is primarily focusing on economic relations, while Russia and Turkey put greater effort into building political and societal ties.

READ MORE:Macron furious at EU after Brussels exert ‘maximum pressure’ on France

Russia’s direct interventions in domestic politics are difficult to prove, but during the talks for solving the name issue between North Macedonia and Greece, accusations were made suggesting Moscow had interfered.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has described the enlargement of the EU into the Balkan region as a “destructive policy.”

Mr Macron’s aims to protect Europe from outside influence are understandable, but his method may have handed Russia and China a chance to pounce in a region right on the EU’s doorstep.

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