Jean-Claude Juncker and Albanian prime minister Edi Rama in Brussels last December. Juncker has suggested Albania could join the EU by 2025.
Photo: European Union (Etienne Ansotte)
Balkans accession; Manafort indictment implicates European politicians
Juncker suggests 2025 accession of western Balkans
President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker was in Albania and Macedonia at the weekend as the EU seeks to strengthen ties with the western Balkans. He told a press conference in the Albanian capital of Tirana that the Commission does not consider a date of joining the European Union in 2025 exclusively open to Serbia and Montenegro, the two countries currently in accession negotiations. “The 2025 date is open to all candidate countries,” Juncker said. “And to the extent that a candidate country by then or later or earlier would have met all the criteria for membership, we will proceed in such a way that its efforts will be recognised by the EU.” Albania and Macedonia expect to be given the green light to start accession negotiations in June. Bosnia and Kosovo are also hoping to start accession negotiations. But Juncker also reminded Macedonia that its negotiations could not be started until its long-standing dispute with Greece over the name Macedonia was resolved. “"Do your job with Greece," he said. "I do not intend to lecture those involved."
Manafort investigation extends to Europe
The Associated Press reports that the indictment of Donald Trump’s former campaign chief Paul Manafort suggests that European politicians, part of the so-called Hapsburg Group, lobbied on behalf of Manafort's client, Ukraine's pro-Moscow president, Viktor Yanukovych. The politicians include former government leaders Romano Prodi of Italy, Alfred Gusenbauer of Austria, Aleksander Kwasniewski of Poland and Viktor Yushchenko of Ukraine. Prodi, Gusenbauer and Kwasniewski have all denied being paid to lobby on behalf of Yanukovych. Meanwhile, former Irish MEP Pat Cox, who worked on a mission between 2012 and 2014 to persuade Yanukovych to release imprisoned political opponents, has said he is “perfectly happy” to hand over records to the Manafort investigation.