Merkel Aims for West Balkan-EU Agreement With Macron by March

Arne Delfs

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel wants to reach an agreement with French President Emmanuel Macron for Albania and North Macedonia to begin accession talks with the European Union at the meeting of the group’s leaders in Brussels on March 26.

“We want both these states to be brought closer to the European Union,“ Merkel said on Monday in Berlin before a meeting with Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama.

Merkel’s comments renew pressure on Macron, who in October vetoed the EU’s plan to start accession talks with the two countries during the first half of 2020. He had insisted on tougher scrutiny to ensure their respect for the rule of law. Macron’s snub provoked political discontent in the western Balkans, and North Macedonia’s prime minister, Zoran Zaev, subsequently resigned.

Both Albania and North Macedonia had achieved a lot on their way into the EU and therefore deserved the beginning of accession talks, Merkel said. Germany is scrambling to revive the membership hopes of both these countries in an effort to avoid political instability in a region still grappling with the aftermath of the Yugoslav civil war in the 1990s. Berlin is also concerned about the growing influence of Russia and China in the Balkans.

Read More:

Snubbed by EU, Balkan Hopefuls Stumped by Challenge From ECB Too

To contact the reporter on this story: Arne Delfs in Berlin at adelfs@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Ben Sills at bsills@bloomberg.net, Raymond Colitt, Richard Bravo

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