European Western Balkans

MacShane: Will the EU leave the Western Balkans strewing in its own juice?

Plenary session Week 27 2017 in Strasbourg - EP building and Flags

BRUSSELS – Will the EU honour its word to Tirana and Skopje or will- not for the first time- leave the Western Balkans strewing in its own juice? All eyes are on the reaction of EU foreign ministers to last week’s informatory rhetoric by two Balkan leaders”, writes for Euractiv Denis MacShane, former UK minister for the Balkans under Tony Blair.

According to Denis MacShane, this week on June 18, the EU’s foreign ministers will meet, and once again the Balkans will be the main topic on the agenda.

MacShane writes that Prespa agreement is a rare example of a serious diplomatic breakthrough of two young, left-oriented, prime ministers, Tsipras and Zaev, who decided to break a 30-year deadlock over the name of the country.

Former UK minister writes that in exchange for an agreement on the name dispute, Greece agreed to back the entry of North Macedonia into NATO and the EU. He also writes that Greek diplomats had also been quietly supporting Albania’s entry into the EU.

“Just as the entry of Poland and other East European states into the EU has helped improve their economies and create jobs so the hope was that the EU’s osmotic effect of raising standards in business and rule of law or human rights could work in Albania and North Macedonia,” writes MacShane for Euractiv.

MacShane also stresses out the importance of the corruption affair that is shaking Albania. There is a 20-year judicial-business corruption affair, that is lead by Lulzim Basha, leader of the opposition, which has made great tensions between the EU and Albanian government.

“Basha has considerable support from the US alt-right, and uses a picture of himself and Donald Trump on all his social media as well as echoing Trump attacks on any media in Albania that dare criticise him. Magistrates in Tirana last week launched an investigation into a mysterious $625,000 payment Basha paid to US lobbyists to get a hand-shake with Trump,” writes MacShane for Euractiv.

Having all this in mind, MacShane wonders will this be another step back for Albania and North Macedonia in joining the EU.

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