EU foreign ministers on Tuesday postponed the opening of European Union accession negotiations with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and Albania until 2019, after France, the Netherlands and Denmark expressed reservations on the two countries at a meeting of the General Affairs Council in Luxembourg.
EU foreign ministers decided they will give the green light next year instead of now, as Greece had hoped, following a landmark deal between Athens and Skopje on FYROM's name.
Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias reportedly tried to appease the concerns of his counterparts over FYROM and Albania, however the three countries want more reforms to be implemented before approving further steps.
“There were two different lines. On the one hand, a majority of 25, who want to accept and open the negotiations for North Macedonia/fYROM and Albania by the summer of 2019, and on the other hand, Denmark, France and Holland, who want to postpone the negotiations,” Kotzias told journalists after the talks.
“I explained very clearly how the geopolitical and geostrategic situation in the region necessitates assistance, rather than postponement, for both of these countries. I explained that the domestic situation in these two countries points to a need for stability and security, and certainly not new problems,” he added.
According to a European diplomat, the Netherlands' position concerning FYROM is clear: Despite the very positive development in the name deal, The Hague considers that FYROM still does not meet two basic criteria for the opening of talks, that concern the rule of law and its administrative capacity.
“We can not close our eyes to the accession process simply because the name issue has closed,” a diplomat told Kathimerini, stressing that the process must be respected.