This was particularly important for North Macedonia in view of the political crisis created there, after the October 2019 non-decision. Indeed, following the failure of the October 2019 European Council to grant them the green light to start accession talks, Prime Minister Zaev announced there would be a snap parliamentary election and created a transitional, technical government. Arguably, the incumbent government’s pro-European electoral agenda is highly dependent on the EU’s decision to start the negotiations. Postponing the decision again could have undermined their electoral success and contributed to the return to power of the previously ousted political party (VMRO), with an uncertain future for the implementation of the Prespa agreement with Greece.
Fighting the influence of non-EU actors in the western Balkans
Looking at the rest of the region, recent developments in Serbia provide another simple explanation for the EU’s decision last week. The most recent actions and statements of the political leadership in Serbia, most notably its president, are a true token of what the European Commission (as well as numerous experts in the Balkans) warned about in early 2018: the increasing influence of non-EU actors in several countries of the region. In the most widely followed address to the nation, in which he announced the start of the state of emergency in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Serbian president spoke about the end of European solidarity, clearly announcing that Serbia could not count on the help of its neighbor, the EU, while it could only rely on its brotherhood with remote China.