Zagreb, 20 November 2019 (Hina/MIA) – Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said on Wednesday the new EU enlargement rules proposed by France were unnecessary as filters for candidate countries were already part of the existing mechanism.
Last month, France vetoed the opening of accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania with the explanation that the EU first had to reform the enlargement methodology. It subsequently sent member states a paper in which it proposes a seven-step accession process.
Plenkovic said the negotiation framework that was being used for Montenegro and Serbia already provided for a suspension and returning to provisionally closed chapters (reversibility), which France is proposing.
“The existing framework already has mechanisms to control, with very specific filters, even the tiniest step in any chapter,” he told reporters as part of a European People’s Party congress in Zagreb. “It’s necessary to clearly distinguish between the opening of negotiations and the negotiation process that is under way.”
Since beginning its EU entry talks in early 2014, Serbia has opened 17 chapters, while Montenegro has opened 32 in seven years of negotiations.
Croatia will chair the EU for six months as of January 1 and wants North Macedonia and Albania to continue their European path. The two countries pin their hopes on Croatia and are supported by the EPP, the largest group in the European Parliament.
In October, French President Emmanuel Macron led a small group of EU leaders who vetoed the opening of accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania, despite concerns about the increasing Chinese and Russian influence in the Balkans.
Plenkovic, a member of the EPP, called it bizarre that the liberal and social democratic governments in France, the Netherlands and Denmark vetoed accession negotiations for two countries led by socialists.
Although he believes Macron’s goal is to enhance the EU’s functioning, Plenkovic said his proposal could not stop enlargement. “Enlargement has a clear legal basis, Article 49 of the Union Treaty, which says that any country, if it requests so, can become a member. There is no non-paper that can derogate that right.”
EU enlargement to the Western Balkans is high on the agenda of the EPP congress taking place in Zagreb today and tomorrow.