Reuters reports that France remains opposed to the opening of European Union accession talks with Macedonia and Albania, and wants the decision postponed for 2020. Diplomatic sources told Reuters that the two countries are not ready even for this early step in way toward EU membership.

– Paris says the EU faces too many challenges right now to let in two more states from the Balkans, a region still scarred by wars fought in the 1990s and struggling with crime and corruption. France says the EU needs to reform from the inside first to tackle with greater vigour and unity such challenges as climate change and migration, and that the two hopefuls must carry out further reforms before the start of talks can be approved. “They are not there yet. We are asking them to make additional efforts,” a French official said. “Negotiation cannot be opened in October 2019, we will need to reassess the situation somewhere in 2020″, Reuters reported.

Other EU member states warned France that the Union needs to ward off Russian, Turkish or Chinese influence in the region and should reward Macedonia for the imposed name change agreement. But French officials insist that the EU should reform itself and tackle matters such as climate change and migration before it can bring additional Balkan member states.

– This is very frustrating for most of the member states. Our credibility is at stake. “North” Macedonia and Albania have done a lot. Yes, a lot more remains to be done but opening membership talks is just the first step, the process would take years and they would have to fulfil all the criteria before they are allowed in, Reuters quotes a diplomat from a country willing to open the accession talks.

The Netherlands and Denmark are also opposed to Albania’s EU accession talks, but are more open to Macedonia. Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok said that Macedonia needed to adopt a law on the state prosecutors, following the major racketeering scandal, which could still happen in time for the European Council next week. “For the Netherlands that would have to pass in order to open accession talks”, Blok said. But decoupling Macedonia from Albania could cause additional problems among EU member states and in the region, given Albanian nationalist outbursts when the idea was first proposed.