Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said in Munich on Saturday that he was satisfied that France's position on EU enlargement had "evolved" and that the prospect of the EU launching accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania was good.
Last year Paris blocked the launching of accession talks with the two Balkan countries, asking for changes to the methodology of talks before further EU enlargement and for Skopje and Tirana to do more on fighting corruption.
Nonetheless, French President Emmanuel Macron said at the Munich Security Conference 2020 on Saturday that he would support the launching of talks with North Macedonia and Albania if the European Commission gave a positive assessment of their progress in March.
Speaking to reporters on the margins of the Munich conference, Plenkovic said that "France's position has evolved".
"I do not expect France to block the opening of talks now that the methodology has been changed," he said.
"Additional talks are to be conducted with the other two countries (Denmark and the Netherlands) that had reservations and I think that we are heading in the right direction," said Plenkovic, whose country is chairing the EU in the first half of 2020.
Plenkovic expects that the EU will approve the launching of accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania before the EU-Western Balkan summit to be held in Zagreb on May 6-7.
Plenkovic met in Munich with North Macedonian President Stevo Pendarovski and Kosovo's new Prime Minister Albin Kurti, saying that Croatia would help Kosovo in drawing closer to EU membership, including by cancelling visa requirements for Kosovo nationals.
Plenkovic also held talks with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, who said that if the Taliban showed readiness for talks, a gradual withdrawal of NATO troops from Afghanistan, including Croatian troops, could start.
"Our 11th contingent is there (with 110 soldiers) and the 12th is getting ready but if an agreement is reached, a gradual reduction of the mission in Afghanistan could start," he said.
Plenkovic promised that his government would continue to support the Three Seas Initiative, after the United States said earlier in the day that it would give up to one billion dollars for investments in the private and public sectors of countries on the Adriatic-Baltic-Black Sea stretch.
"We have to step up economic, notably energy cooperation in that area. As far as my government is concerned, we have supported the initiative so far and will continue to be actively involved in it," said Plenkovic.