If constitutional changes not adopted before end of year, risk of decoupling North Macedonia and Albania does exist, Boone tells MIA
The constitutional changes are part of the agreement made between North Macedonia and the EU to progress with an automatic beginning of the accession process. There is no further demand. If the constitutional changes are not adopted before the end of the year, the risk of decoupling North Macedonia and Albania does exist, France’s Secretary of State for Europe, Laurence Boone, told MIA.
Skopje, 22 July 2023 (MIA) – The constitutional changes are part of the agreement made between North Macedonia and the EU to progress with an automatic beginning of the accession process. There is no further demand. If the constitutional changes are not adopted before the end of the year, the risk of decoupling North Macedonia and Albania does exist, France’s Secretary of State for Europe, Laurence Boone, told MIA.
Boone said this in response to MIA’s question on whether the current situation with the constitutional amendments can affect the drafting of the report on the screening for the country. Namely, EU Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi recently said that the report on the screening process for Tirana will be presented soon without mentioning when can it be expected for Skopje, and whether this mean de facto decoupling North Macedonia and Albania in the process.
“We are very happy that the constitutional changes are now on the table and the process is starting because that is so important as Anna was just explaining. North Macedonia and Albania have been the two countries leading the pack in terms of progress with reforms to join the EU. They are two countries that have really advanced with the clusters and the roadmap they had to fulfill. As my German and Polish colleagues will tell you, the constitutional changes are obviously part of the agreement that was made between North Macedonia and the EU to progress with an automatic beginning of the accession process once this is voted and I think it is very important to highlight that. There is no further demand to open the accession process. At the same time, the future of this opening of accession talks is in the hands of the Parliament and North Macedonia is completely sovereign in deciding what it wants to do. But we do hope this will happen and they will join the EU family, and we do hope that North Macedonia and Albania will keep the lead, as they have been doing in recent years. Obviously, if the constitutional changes are not adopted before the end of the year, the risk of decoupling does exist,” said Boone.
In a conversation with MIA alongside Minister of State for Europe and Climate in Germany’s Federal Foreign Office, Anna Lührmann, and Poland’s Minister for the European Union, Szymon Szynkowski vel Sęk, during their visit to the country, the French Secretary of State also commented on the role of the new enlargement methodology. Asked how much has the new methodology, which French President Macron advocated for, really accelerated the process, Boone stated that this new methodology has not been tested yet, adding that Skopje and Tirana could be the first two countries to actually get into this new methodology.
“So, first thing, and I think this will be repeating what has been said. Yes, the question for us is not whether we should enlarge. We should enlarge, the President has responded to that, as soon as possible, and the question is how, this is what we are highlighting. This new methodology has not been tested yet, Albania and North Macedonia could be the first two countries to actually get into this new methodology. What is the objective? The objective is that we are faster with enlargement and more efficient, so that each time there is some progress in the country towards the acquis, the country gets the benefit of the progress and you know that in the old methodology you had to wait until everything was solved before getting the benefit. This time it is sort of a fast-track, which is as rigorous in terms of reforms as before, and is an opportunity for the country to get acquainted with our process and method and receive the benefit faster than before,” Boone pointed out.
According to her, the EU reform process should also go hand in hand with the new methodology.
“We also must reform the European Union, we need to be more agile, more flexible when we have to respond, and design new policies. At the same time as the countries like North Macedonia or Albania will do their reform, we will do our homework and our reforms as well,” Boone said, explaining President Macron’s statement that the enlargement should take place as soon as possible, but reforms within the EU are also necessary so it can function wih more members.
France’s Secretary of State for Europe says 2030 is absolutely an ambitious target that North Macedonia should hang on in terms of joining EU because it is very possible to achieve it.
“Now, on the date, 2030, absolutely it is an ambitious target that North Macedonia should hang on because it is very possible to do it, because North Macedonia has the capacity to do it and we have the capacity to help North Macedonia achieve this goal. We should keep this ambitious target and do everything we can to reach it and even before if possible,” said Boone.
As regards how to restore support for EU in the country and rebuild the credibility of the European integration process, Boone said it is precisely the new methodology that’s the answer to that
“I think we completely understand the fatigue and it is partly because of the old methodology, which is also why we are so motivated today with this new methodology to make the process faster, to make sure that there is less frustration, and that we can move ahead. We are trying to address the fatigue with the new methodology, which again is completely understandable. The world has changed and everyone in the EU is realizing that and everyone wants to change the way we once were. We wanted change in a way it makes our continent more secure, more stable and also with more economic growth and jobs for everyone in their own countries so that people do not have to travel elsewhere and that they can have a good life in their own country. It is important for all of us, because we all work better when we are together, and it is also why we want this to go more quickly. Since the beginning of the year we have had a series of meetings, we have people working together to prepare the enlargement policy and I can tell you that, as Anna and Szymon said, there has never been such momentum and enthusiasm for the enlargement process,” Boone said.
She also stressed the importance of the issue of stability and security.
“The third point I want to address is the stability and security. The world has changed, it has become fragmented and the war is now at our borders. An unjustifiable and terrible war. We do not want to see our neighbors, the countries which belong to the European family, drifting аway. We need to come closer together, we need to be friendlier to each other in order to make sure our continent is secure. Fragmentation is never good. That is also why I think that everyone should believe that the EU and its methods have changed, and it is also in our own interest to make sure that Albania, North Macedonia and the rest of the Balkan countries can join the EU family. We have a unique opportunity to make the fate of this continent a peaceful and prosperous one with this enlargement, we want to see it and we want you a part of it,” Laurence Boone said.
She also stressed the importance of the issue of stability and security.