France ‘humiliated’ by AUKUS says former US ambassador
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The US President signed a new defence deal with Australia and the UK last week which saw an order of French submarines being scrapped by Canberra. The move infuriated French politicians from all sides of the political spectrum, lashing out at President Biden for leaving France out.
To make things worse, Gabriel Escobar, the US deputy secretary of state for South Central Europe, told RFE/RL that he wished the EU had made more progress on plans to allow Western Balkan states to become EU members.
The US official had already served in the region under a variety of political and diplomatic hats between 1998 and 2001.
He said: “To return 20 years later and see that there hasn’t been much progress on that front was a little disappointing.
“We would like to see a more rapid integration.”
Mr Escobar said both the European Union and Western Balkan nations – which include North Macedonia, Albania, Serbia, Kosovo, Montenegro, and Bosnia-Herzegovina – have challenges to overcome to make integration a reality, but he added that he hoped American engagement “can get both sides back on track.”
But the call infuriated Generation Frexit leader Charles-Henri Gallois who called on French President Emmanuel Macron to leave the bloc and abandon NATO in a bid to regain military and political sovereignty.
He blasted: “The EU to counterbalance the United States – umpteenth episode: the United States urges the EU to speed up enlargement to include the Balkan countries.
“That is rich after the humiliation of the submarines.
“Get out of the EU and NATO!
READ MORE: France-US submarine row sparks fresh calls for EU Army in Berlin
EU rules require consensus from its 27 members on many important issues, including expansion.
The Western Balkan countries are at different stages of integrating with the European Union.
Montenegro and Serbia are the most advanced, having opened accession negotiations and chapters.
Albania and North Macedonia are awaiting the official opening of accession talks, while Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo are potential candidate countries.
At the beginning of June, the Commission announced that a package of over €14billion (£12billion) for the 2021-2027 Multiannual Financial Framework period has been agreed between the European Parliament and the European Council to fund Turkey and the Western Balkans.
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The eye-watering financial package will serve as an instrument to support potential new members of the EU prepare with their paths towards membership.
The agreement will now be translated into legal texts, which will need to be approved by the European Parliament and the Council.
Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement, Olivér Várhelyi, said: “This long-awaited agreement on our ambitious financing assistance is a positive, welcome and strong signal for the Western Balkans and Turkey.
“The agreed package is a solid investment in the future of the enlargement region and the EU, supporting the implementation of key political, institutional, social and economic reforms to comply with EU standards and progressively align with its rules and policies.
“It will provide funding for the Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans, a key tool to underpin the economic recovery of this priority region.
“Through investments in key sectors including connectivity, infrastructure, environment and climate, as well as energy and digital, it will boost the convergence with the EU and bring tangible benefits for citizens.”
The package will provide support to Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey with an overall budget of €14.162 billion in current prices for 2021-2027, starting retroactively from January 1, 2021.
In Turkey’s case, the funds will also serve to keep refugees from crossing into the EU.
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