Paris tells: Skopje: "Reforms must be substantial, not formal"

Source: Civil Rights Defenders

France has recently felt short of allowing the European Union to set a date for opening the accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania, triggering bitter criticism by some high-ranking EU officials and an early election in Skopje.

 Emmanuel Macron, France’s President, insists on some changes in the EU enlargement process, and his country ambassador to Skopje Christian Thimonier “has affirmed French position on reassessing the enlargement process for the Western Balkans, saying “reforms in the accession countries must be substantial, not formal,” according to a press release.

Thimonier took part in a forum organised by Civil Rights Defenders, ‘Defending European Values in the Accession Process’ which brought together around a hundred human rights defenders from the Western Balkans, Turkey and Eastern Europe, with key policymakers and representatives of EU member states.

Speaking at the civil society forum in Skopje on Tuesday, “the ambassador added the French opinion is very sensitive. Expansion is reaching its limits. Do we really implement the same processes for accession? Do we really share the same values, or has the time come to start introducing additional steps?” the press release by Civil Rights Defenders said.

It added that “this comes after France’s rejected commencing enlargement talks for Albania and North Macedonia last month, and President Macron circulated an informal, six-page paper to EU diplomats on November 15, suggesting a revision to accession negotiations.

According to the release, since little is still known about what these revisions may entail, or when negotiations will begin for Albania and North Macedonia, ambassador Thimonier points out the example of Montenegro as a country which prematurely began opening chapters towards EU accession.

“Does the accumulation of wealth in Montenegro indicate European values? Is that someone we want to share our sovereignty with? Wealth in Montenegro is concentrated within 10 or 12 families. That is why we would like to readdress and revisit enlargement rules. It has become about box-ticking rather than substantial progress,” Thimonier added.

Among other participants, there were Tommaso Nodari, Programme Officer, Civil Rights, Milan Jazbec, Slovenian ambassador to North Macedonia and Andre De Munter, Official in charge of Western Balkans and Turkey, in the European Parliament.