Merkel Praises Macedonia, EU Struggles to Influence Romania

Germany hopes Macedonia will resolve its name dispute with Greece. Corruption scandals in Romania expose the limits of the EU’s influence.

German chancellor Angela Merkel receives Macedonian prime minister Zoran Zaev in Berlin, February 21
German chancellor Angela Merkel receives Macedonian prime minister Zoran Zaev in Berlin, February 21 (Bundesregierung)

German chancellor Angela Merkel has praised judicial reforms in Macedonia as well as steps to improve transparency and resolve the former Yugoslav republic’s name dispute with Greece.

“In the last ten years, the solution has not been as close as now and it would be wonderful if the remaining difficulties can be bridged,” she said during a news conference with her Macedonian counterpart, Zoran Zaev.

It would, but the dispute with Greece is only one of the many obstacles to the Balkan nation’s EU accession.

The EU has nevertheless set a target date of 2025 for the remaining states of the Western Balkans to join, fearing that otherwise Russia might take advantage.

EU struggles to influence Romania

The Financial Times reports that ongoing corruption scandals in Romania have exposed the limits of the EU’s influence.

Like the ruling parties in Hungary and Poland, Romania’s Social Democrats use their popularity as an excuse to attack democratic norms and the rule of law. The moment EU officials so much as open their mouths, the Social Democrats accuse them of bossing elected governments around.

Brussels does have one advantage: Romania’s eagerness to join the passport-free Schengen Area.

For background, read Ryan Bohl’s story from last year about urban Romanians demanding an end to a century-old system of rural patronage.

Frugal Europeans

Mehreen Khan reports that Austria, Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden are making common cause against EU budget increases.

All four are net contributors to the bloc.

Germany, by far the largest net contributor, has already accepted the next EU budget will be higher than the last, even though it will coincidence with Britain’s exit.

Their absence from the frugal alliance does not make the other four more likely to acquiesce, however. If anything, argues Khan, “the absence of German heft and the UK’s traditional resistance to more EU payments could mean the gang of four are even more stubborn this time round.”

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