Illustration by Hannah Robinson
Macedonia became a candidate for accession to the EU in 2005 but one of the main barriers to its accession to the EU lay in its name dispute with Greece. In 2018, Macedonia and Greece agreed that the country could be renamed « Republic of North Macedonia », and this permitted the beginning of EU accession talks.
However, when the EU Council met on the 16th of October, they could not agree that EU accession talks with North Macedonia could begin France was the only EU Member to oppose the accession of North Macedonia.
Emmanuel Macron – the French President – vetoed the beginning of accession talks with North Macedonia as he believes that the EU must be reformed before any further EU expansion can occur. As of October 2019, the EU is comprised of 28 Member States and this expansion has resulted in complicated decision-making. Reforming the EU is a long process and has been attempted several times, most recently in the Lisbon Treaty in 2007.
When considering North Macedonia’s case for accession, it is important to note that it is more likely to be a receiver than a contributor to the EU’s budget. Bulgaria, which is also a Balkan country and joined the EU in 2007 contributes to 0.3% of the EU’s budget and is classified as a net receiver. In the context of Brexit, the EU is set to potentially lose one of its biggest net contributors. It contributed around 11.88% of the EU budget in 2018. As a matter of comparison, Germany contributes to 20.78% and France to 15.58% of the EU’s budget. A loss of over a tenth of its budget does not put the EU on good footing to accept more net receivers.
A few days before the vote, on the 11th of October, the European deputies refused to appoint Sylvie Goulard to the European Commission. As she was Macron’s choice of appointment, he may have perceived this as a personal affront meaning his vote against North Macedonia’s accession may have been in retaliation.
Since 2005, North Macedonia has been working to fulfil the necessary conditions to join the EU, while the EU did not – yet – hold its promise. Macron has argued that talks about the accession of North Macedonia should not begin because the EU needs reform before any further expansion. We can also guess that his concerns over adding more net-receivers to the EU and even his potential personal affront to the EU’s rejection of his Commission candidate played a part as well. However, on the 24th of October, the European Parliament adopted a resolution supporting the accession of North Macedonia with 412 out of a potential 578, cast in favour. It is time for Macron to put his qualms aside at listening to the Members of the European Parliament.