The Brief: fallout from Balkan enlargement stalemate

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By Joanna Gill  & Sandor Zsiros, Meabh Mc Mahon
General view in Macedonian Government Building. AFP PHOTO/ROBERT ATANASOVSKI
General view in Macedonian Government Building. AFP PHOTO/ROBERT ATANASOVSKI   -  Copyright  EU Commission   -   ROBERT ATNASOVSKI

The European dreams of Albania and North Macedonia are on ice. France blocked the opening of accession talks at a meeting in Luxembourg Tuesday, and the political fallout is being aired in Brussels.

The European Commission had called on member states to kick off negotiations several times, but going off script Commissioner Avramopoulos had this message.

"I would like to make a political comment at least only with what I believe. Let's be very careful with the Balkans. Don't let the Balkans get reBalkanised in the old way things were happening then."

France defended its position - taking aim at the system, saying a reform of the accession process was needed. The Netherlands stood behind President Macron, however, we spoke to Dutch socialist, Kati Piri, who felt the decision was damaging for the EU's relationship, especially for North Macedonia.

"The message the EU is now sending to these countries ; it doesn't matter what you do we are not there for you. I think this is a catastrophic message especially for a country which did very tough reforms. Not just changing its name, also made a u-turn on democracy and now we leave them out in the cold."

While EU leaders are set to focus on tense talks over Brexit, divisions could create cracks in the relationship between France and Germany over the Western Balkans.

And in other EU news...

The new EU Commission under Ursula von der Leyen will not take office before December 1, the European Parliament has announced.

The decision to postpone followed the rejection of three Commissioners-designate by lawmakers during the confirmation process.

It's a setback for von der Leyen and the entire Commission who were supposed to take office on November 1st.

Most stunning was the rejection of France's pick Sylvie Goulard, whereas Hungary's nomination of László Trócsányi seemed to be a no-go for insiders from the start.

Like with the third candidate, Ivana Plumb from Romania, Parliament saw serious conflicts of interest that remained unsurmountable obstacles.

Complicating the process is the collapse of the Romanian government.