EU membership: young people in North Macedonia, between hopes and disappointments

A candidate for entry into the European Union for 15 years, North Macedonia has seen its dossier progress in Brussels in recent days. What does the young generation think in this small Balkan state, which has gone so far as to change its name to meet European criteria? Our reporters went to Skopje, the capital, to meet young Macedonians, who oscillate between hopes and disappointments in the face of the European dream.

For several weeks, the European institutions have all been dedicated to managing the health crisis due to the coronavirus. But despite everything, they have found a way to move forward on a completely different issue: that of enlargement.

Tuesday, March 24, a milestone was reached for North Macedonia and Albania. The 27 European Union (EU) Ministers for European Affairs gave the green light to the opening of accession negotiations for Skopje and Tirana. “Your future is in the EU”, welcomed the European Commissioner for Enlargement, Oliver Varhelyi.

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If North Macedonia obtained candidate status fifteen years ago, it has since suffered many setbacks. Most recent: on October 18, France, through the voice of Emmanuel Macron, vetoed the opening of EU accession negotiations. “A serious historical error,” denounced the European Commission, fearing that other countries – notably Russia, Turkey or China – would take advantage of it to exert their influence in the Balkans.

Efforts

Paris notably demanded more control over the reforms undertaken. A wish heard by the European Commission, which presented a new approach a few weeks ago.

The Macedonians spared no effort to meet European criteria. Last June, the country went so far as to change its name when the former “Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” officially became “North Macedonia”. A new name which made it possible to settle an old dispute with Greece, which categorically blocked its prospect of accession.

Despite these advances, there is still a long way to go for the small Balkan Republic and its accession process to the European Union, still bruised by Brexit, should take years.

Some Macedonians prefer to leave and try their luck in Europe directly. According to World Bank statistics, a quarter of the population has gone into exile in the past ten years. In Skopje, the capital, other young people choose to invest in their country and keep the hope of one day becoming Europeans. Our reporters, Alix Le Bourdon and Ana Krstinovska, went to meet them.

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