WHY SHOULD BRUSSELS BEGIN THE NEGOTIATIONS FOR MEMBERSHIP WITH SKOPJE AND TIRANA?
On the eve of the decision to start negotiations, within the 28 member states of the European Union (EU) there is still doubt whether North Macedonia and Albania should be included in the process.
Author: Xhelal Neziri
The two small Balkan states were optimistic that they would receive the start of negotiations in June, but were disappointed when the decision was delayed for technical reasons. In fact, the dilemmas within the Union had brought disappointment to the aspirant countries, which failed to receive the rewards promised by Brussels. Tirana and Skopje went through a difficult period of heavy and sensitive reforms, changing the constitution: the first for judicial reform, and the second for changing the name of the state.
Although the negotiation process of 35 chapters implies completion of the preconditions of each chapter, and the same process can take years, there are still skeptical countries within the EU. Among them are France, the Netherlands and Denmark, which are not opposed to North Macedonia and Albania, but in principle are against enlargement of the Union in general.
Each EU member state must decide by mid-October whether to support the decision to give the two aspirants of the Western Balkans a green light to start negotiations. The decision requires a consensus vote at a meeting of the EU Council, composed of representatives of the Governments of the member states. Germany is expected to have the final attitude on September 26, adopted at the Bundestag, which is expected to be positive for the two Balkan countries. However, Albania is expected to have nine additional conditions related to electoral reforms and the rule of law, while North Macedonia will begin negotiations in January.
Senior diplomats within the EU admit that not giving the date of negotiations in June was a major geostrategic mistake of the Union, which in this form has demotivated Governments to pursue more vigorously the reforms. It has been Albania’s bad image, as a country with a high presence of organized crime, and information about the corruption of the North Macedonian judicial system that has stopped the three skeptical countries from rewarding reform processes in these two countries.
Now in October, it seems that the EU will be in a position not to delay further the decision, not so much because of the contending countries, but because of the geopolitical vacuum that was left during this period.
Indeed, the experts say that this kind of geopolitical vacuum doesn’t exist because gamers fulfill every space left outside of the Brussels and Washington’s’ interest.
Russia and China, why not Turkey, have managed to increase their influence in the Western Balkans due to the lack of Western focus in this region.
The presence of eastern influence in Skopje and Tirana is asymmetric with their investments in this region.
According to official data collected by the National Bank of North Macedonia and analyzed for this report, since 2010 Russia has 49.03 million Euro FDI in Northern Macedonia, of which 3.54 million in 2010, 6.65 in 2011, 0.16 in 2012, 2.31 in 2013, -0.37 in 2014, 18.1 in 2015, 11.35 in 2016, -0.65 in 2017 and 8.44 in 2018.
This total amount of FDI since 2010 is far less than the EU FDI member states with an amount of 1.4 billion euros.
Thus, in the list of FDIs in Macedonia, Russia is ranked 16th, after the Netherlands in the first place (294 million euros), Germany in 2nd (286.5 million euros), Austria in 3rd (266.5 million euros), Turkey in 4th (258.9m euros), United Kingdom in 5th (206.3m euros), Bermuda in 6th (129.6m euros), Greece in 7th (109.2m euros), Switzerland at 8th (102.3m euros), Slovenia at 9th (99.3m euros), Italy at 10th (82.7m euros), SAINTS VINCENT AND GRENADINEST at 11th (73.7m euros), UAE at 12th (65m euros), Belgium at 13th (64.4m euros), China at 14th (54.9m euros), Bulgaria at 15th (50.4m euros), USA at 17th (41.5m euros), Bahamas 18th (31.7m euros), Sweden 19th (31.1m euros), Lichtenstein 20th (27m euros), Cyprus 21st ta (26.1m euros), Kosovo in 22nd (20m euros), Honk Kong at 23rd (20m euros), Romania is at 24th (17.7m euros), Luxembourg at 25th (15.6m euros), Albania at 26th (14.5m euros) and Serbia at 27th place (13m euros). Other countries listed have less than 10m euros in FDI in North Macedonia since 2010.
Russia is in 16th place as Macedonia’s trading partner, with total exports of 5.4m euros in 2018, 8.2m euros in 2019, while imports from Russia were 40.7m euros in 2018 and 42.8m euros in 2019. On the top of the list over Russia are the following countries: Germany, United Kingdom, Greece, Serbia, Italy, Romania, China, Turkey, Belgium, Hungary etc.
Thus, Russian influence in North Macedonia by economic figures is the weakest in the region. Analyzing the FDI data per capita for North Macedonia, 2017 has had the smallest amount of money received.
In these figures Montenegro has had almost EUR 2,000 per capita FDI in 2017 from Russia, Bulgaria 300, Serbia 164, Bosnia and Herzegovina 90, Croatia 78, and North Macedonia 100 times less than Montenegro, or only 26 euros per capita. In the same year, 2017, North Macedonia received FDI of 4.7 billion euros. So, the Russian share in this amount was only 27m euros or 0.5%.