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MacShane: Will the EU let the Western Balkans sow in their own juice?

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BRUSSELS – Will the EU honor its word to Tirana and Skopje or will it let, for the first time, the Western Balkans sow in its juice? All eyes are on EU foreign ministers’ reaction to last week’s informative speech by two Balkan leaders,” writes for EURACTIV Denis MacShane, former British Minister for the Balkans under Tony Blair.

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

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

The former British minister writes that in exchange for an agreement on the name dispute, Greece agreed to support North Macedonia’s entry into NATO and the EU. He also writes that Greek diplomats have also quietly supported Albania’s entry into the EU.

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

MacShane also highlights the importance of the corruption scandal rocking Albania. There is a 20-year-old case of judicial and commercial corruption, led by opposition leader Lulzim Basha, which has sparked great tensions between the EU and the Albanian government.

“Basha enjoys considerable support from the American far right and uses a photo of himself and Donald Trump on all his social networks and echoes Trump’s attacks on all Albanian media that dare to criticize him . Magistrates in Tirana last week opened an investigation into a mysterious $625,000 payment Basha made to American lobbyists to secure a handshake with Trump,” MacShane writes for EURACTIV.

With all this in mind, MacShane wonders whether this will be another step backwards for Albania and North Macedonia in their EU membership.

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