EU warned: "You will experience a serious blow in the Balkans"
Prime Minister of North Macedonia, Zoran Zaev, assessed that frustrations re: blocked negotiations with the EU make room for Russia and China in the BalkansSource: Beta
According to Macedonian media, Zaev warned the EU that its reputation would "get a serious blow in the Balkans and lose its place in front of rival forces if it does not start membership negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania soon".
"If the region's path to the EU slows down, it will open more space for other powers, especially Russia and China. If the EU does not keep its promises in the region, it will be less of an incentive for Kosovo and Serbia to find a solution in EU-sponsored talks and will make it less likely that Bosnia-Herzegovina will implement the necessary reforms", prime minister of North Macedonia said.
In an interview with the Brussels magazine "Politico", which was made during last week's visit to Athens, Zaev rejected the idea of the EU Commissioner for Enlargement, Olivér Várhelyi, to separate the beginning of the accession negotiations between Albania and North Macedonia.
"The message against the separation is clear and I hope that Bulgaria will be reasonable," he said, describing the problem with Sofia as "essential", expressing optimism that a solution to the dispute could be found. Prime Minister of North Macedonia pointed out that he hoped for the help of Western powers, including US President Joseph Biden. If there is no progress, Zaev estimated, the enlargement process will be frozen for at least another year and a half due to the elections in Bulgaria, Germany and France.
"There are so many COVID-19 victims and despite that, the EU not to deliver (what it promised). That is the problem. We have shown more European values and manners than the EU," said Zaev, but he says that, despite all the failures lately, he is optimistic and thinks that the EU can restore confidence by opening membership talks quickly.