Macron furious at EU after Brussels accused of exerting ‘maximum pressure’ against France | World | News

France has been bitterly criticised for saying that the bloc needed to undergo deep reform and overhaul its enlargement process before new members could be allowed in. Now, key figures in Brussels are executing a “maximum pressure strategy” against France that is both “counter-productive and inappropriate,” a presidential source has told French media. Senior EU officials, worried by growing Chinese and Russian influence in the Balkans, accused France earlier on Friday of making a “historic error” by refusing to let the two Balkan hopefuls start membership negotiations. North Macedonia and Albania – as well as Bosnia, Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia – are trying to join the Brussels bloc following the ethnic wars of the 1990s that led to the collapse of Yugoslavia.

Though all 28 EU states see Balkan membership as inevitable one day, everyone but M Macron backed opening accession talks with North Macedonia – which is considered to have met EU targets for a host of reforms – during a summit in Brussels.  

However, France was backed by Denmark and Holland in its resistance to giving Albania’s bid the green light, citing a need to tackle rampant corruption and organised crime there.

All member states have to agree before approval is given for accession talks.

M Macron later explained that the Balkan hopefuls could not join the bloc until it underwent deep reform, insisting that the EU in its current shape was not able to face today’s challenges or handle another financial crisis, let alone allow in two more members.

“We need a reformed European Union and a reformed enlargement process, a real credibility and a strategic vision of who we are and our role,” M Macron told reporters, referring to the lengthy admission process, which involves candidate countries meeting targets in areas such as the economy and law and order.

But his position has frustrated other EU leaders.

Jean-Claude Juncker, the outgoing president of the European Commission, said France’s decision was a “historic error”.

European Council President Donald Tusk, for his part, said that a “mistake” had been made.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel also condemned the French rejection, saying she hoped EU leaders could review the matter next year.

M Macron’s move also drew criticism from outside the EU, with the US State Department saying in a statement: “We are disappointed the European Council did not recognise each country’s strong reform efforts by agreeing to open accession negotiations at this time.”

Croatia joined the bloc in 2013. 

The European Commission now wants other former Yugoslav republics and Kosovo to join the EU to stop them from falling into the arms of China and Russia.

M Macron has said that EU countries could show more useful support for the region by boosting investments and deepening cultural ties.

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