France is taking the lead in filling the vacuum as a result of Brexit and several EU political leaders made a series of false allegations against Paris as part of their effort to argue against a French veto over granting a date to start negotiations for EU membership to Albania and North Macedonia. The main protagonists in this effort were the four Visegrad countries, all of which mastered the Soviet art of dezinformatsia during their not-so-distant Communist past The purpose was not due to their love for the Western Balkans, but to stop France from taking the lead in Europe’s foreign and defence affairs after Brexit.
It is worth mentioning the fervent interest of Hungary to start entry negotiations with North Macedonia while the fugitive former North Macedonia Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, who according to police sources escaped to Budapest via Albania using a diplomatic car, was granted asylum by Viktor Orban.
The argument for beginning enlargement talks was that it would contain Russia’s influence in the Western Balkans. This is a lie. Albania, Montenegro, and North Macedonia (where the process is almost completed) are NATO members and this is what keeps Russia from having any real influence in the region. To believe that Commission talks with Tirana and Skopje, if they were not already in NATO, would stop the Russians is at least naïve. The Russians have a serious presence in Bosnia and Serbia, which are not in NATO, and if Brussels wanted to play geopolitics those two countries would be first that they would discuss about any future enlargement.
The indirect claim that Albania and North Macedonia should be compensated because they were bombed during the 1990s post-Yugoslavia wars is dezinformatsia. Neither Albania nor North Macedonia were ever attacked. On the contrary Serbia and Bosnia were heavily shelled and destroyed.
The claim that the EU promised to give a date for starting negotiations is false. Nobody ever said that in any official context. However, this false allegation is repeated by many, including by those who have an interest to discrediting the bloc as repetitio est mater studiorum (repetition is the mother of learning). the former Communists know this very well. Indeed, nobody ever said precisely who promised to whom and when.
That both candidates did make some progress to meet EU standards in not a valid argument because they are far from reaching the minimum. The more changes they make are to their own benefits and not to the benefit of the EU.
The Prespes Agreement that ended the Name Dispute with Greece was used as a way to argue that compensation of North Macedonia. Why? The agreement was practically imposed by the US in order to get North Macedonia into NATO to contain Russia’s infiltration. A major flaw in the agreement is that while it specifies that country is North Macedonia, its citizens are Macedonians. What is also problematic with Prespes is that Bulgaria is not among the agreement’s signatory parties due to the fact that agreement says that the language of North Macedonia is “Macedonian”. Bulgaria, however, insists that in North Macedonians speak Bulgarian. A claim that is supported by most linguists in the world.
Albania and North Macedonia are rather stable and the only open issue in the area is the case of Kosovo.
In our view, the bloc should open entry negotiations sooner rather than later for only two intelligent reasons:
Contain drug trafficking and production in Albania.
Allow the EU to be an arbiter between Bulgaria and North Macedonia as several issues between the two may arise in the future, including possible territorial claims. The fact that both countries are now almost NATO allies does not help as NATO does not get involved in disputes between members.