The European Union sets stricter requirements for the admission of six Balkan countries

The European Commission is calling for new rules for the admission of new member states. Six Balkan countries would therefore have to meet stricter criteria. The negotiations that have already started can also be stopped or even reversed. The current 27 EU countries have more to say about this.

With these new procedural agreements, the European Commission hopes to be able to remove the objections from the French president Emmanuel Macron. He believes that the European Union must first be thoroughly modernized and reformed before new members can be admitted. Other EU government leaders believe that these two processes can coincide.

Twenty years ago, the Balkan countries were given the prospect of European membership. Croatia has been the only one allowed up to now. The entry of others has been in a serious impasse since October. French President Emmanuel Macron vetoed accession negotiations with Northern Macedonia and Albania. The Netherlands and Denmark argue in favor of decoupling those two files. They mainly had reservations against the start of the talks with Albania, which they still find too corrupt.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen hopes to be able to turn the tide with a new negotiating method, a new attempt to get Northern Macedonia and Albania to the negotiating table and an economic aid plan for the entire region. A new summit with the Balkan countries is planned for May in Zagreb.

Euro-critics believe that the new rules will lead to the admission of the Balkan countries to be postponed even longer. The outcome of the two-year EU Future Conference that will start later this year and end at the end of next year may be awaited first. The EU leaders want to use that conference to modernize all current procedures, decisions and budgets, a wish that the French president Macron has already advocated on several occasions.

The Hungarian Oliver Varhelyi, the EU commissioner for enlargement, makes respect for the rule of law the start and end point of the talks. That theme is the first to be discussed in the discussions. Without an agreement, there will be no talk about adapting to European rules. If a candidate country challenges its legal rules again, negotiations can be paused or stopped. Financial support to those countries can also be reduced.

The European Commission hopes to get the green light for discussions with Northern Macedonia and Albania at the regular EU summit in March. French government circles reacted cautiously to the new method yesterday, although that does not mean that Paris already welcomes Northern Macedonia and Albania. The Netherlands emphasizes that 'every country is judged on its own merits'. The Hague points out that Albania still has a lot of work to do in the fight against organized crime (gangs) and corruption.