By Erwan Fouéré
lthough the European Union’s enlargement policy will be on the agenda of the European Council this week, the war raging in Ukraine will put most of the focus on Ukraine’s application for membership, together with that of Moldova and Georgia.
But it would be another failure of leadership if the EU does not at the same time take urgent action with regard to the Western Balkans, whose long journey towards EU membership started over 20 years ago.
The EU has meantime left the region to drift between hope and despair, with many unfulfilled promises, the most urgent of them relating to Albania and North Macedonia.
This is causing deep frustration to the countries of the region, leaving them more vulnerable to external actors like Russia, which are only too keen to cause trouble.
Unfortunately, the indications are that the commitment the European Union made in March 2020 to open accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia will again remain unfulfilled.
Bar a last-minute miracle, Bulgaria will maintain its veto against North Macedonia for reasons that have nothing to do with the criteria set out for membership of the EU.
Although both countries signed a Treaty of Friendship, Good Neighbourliness and Cooperation in 2017, which established a joint commission on historical and educational issues, it has had little impact on fostering trust between them.
Bulgaria, an EU member state since 2007, insists on North Macedonia accepting the Bulgarian version of events during and after the Second World War as well as its claim that the Macedonian language didn’t exist before 1944. It also demands that the North Macedonian government amend its constitution in order to recognise the existence of a Bulgarian minority in North Macedonia.