Enlargement to be discussed at Summit in Brussels

European Council President Donald Tusk has determined the agenda of discussions at the two-day summit in Brussels, it was reported on Thursday morning. Enlargement will be discussed during dinner, following the Brexit discussions, which are supposed to take place more quickly than expected as a result of the reached deal. According to a high EU official involved in the preparation of the summit, though France, for now, isn’t showing signs of flexibility, Tusk is determined to try to reach compromise. However, the source warned that there was a genuine risk of failing to reach a deal, adding that that risk shouldn’t be underestimated. Tusk was in contact with French President Emmanuel Macron, who told him his stand hadn’t changed, according to information from the EU. France hadn’t wanted enlargement to be discussed at all at the summit, but Tusk considers that the topic must be opened because what’s at stake is the credibility of the EU in the Balkans and beyond. “Not opening negotaitions with North Macedonia and Albania would be a mistake and the issue isn’t what the European Commission or Member States think, but rather reaching consensus. Diplomats fear that the angry debates on this topic we saw at a ministerial level can repeat themselves,” a high diplomatic source said. Based on information from Brussels, even if compromise is reached, negotiations will not start before 2020. As far as France is concerned, its stand, according to those sources, is that the membership negotiations methodology should be changed, but diplomats confirmed that Paris is putting the proposal on the table now, not when the debates started in June of 2018. However, it seems that there is rather broad consensus among other countries that it’s acceptable for there to be thinking about a change of methodology, but also that it shouldn’t hold candidate countries hostage. Tusk is expected to put both Skopje and Tirana on the table. In his view, that is the best solution, but, though it’s not explicitly said, decoupling can once again be proposed on Thursday night by the European Council President. “I agree that North Macedonia has done incredible things by changing the name,” the diplomat said, answering a question about potential decoupling. The previous day, that is, on Wednesday, Visegrad PMs had urged Tusk to initiate debate on a start of negotiations with the two countries.