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Skeptical Macron sees progress on EU enlargement talks

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French President Emmanuel Macron has indicated that France may soon clear the way for the European Union to launch membership talks with Albania and North Macedonia

MUNICH —
French President Emmanuel Macron indicated Saturday that France may soon clear the way for the European Union to launch membership talks with Albania and North Macedonia, but made it clear he still has reservations about the bloc’s enlargement ambitions.

The two Balkan countries were meant to start formal accession talks with the EU last year. Macron blocked the undertaking in October and said he would continue to do so until the process for admitting countries to the bloc, which now has 27 countries after Britain left in January, was reformed.

Macron said at the Munich Security Conference that that condition has now been fulfilled. He said the next step is a report next month from the EU’s executive Commission on progress made by the two countries.

“If the results are positive and confidence is established, we should be able to be in a position to open the negotiations after that,” he said.

Macron stressed that he shares the strategic goal of “anchoring in Europe” the western Balkans. Still he said there is a “question mark” over whether opening EU membership negotiations that are likely to drag on for years is the right way to do it. He pointed to the importance of investment.

“We Europeans have a problem in that we think of neighborhood only through enlargement,” he said. “That doesn’t work with 27. We move forward too slowly, we have unanimity rules everywhere, we are too heavy. You think it will work if we are 30, 32 or 33?”

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