The 27 member states of the European Union gave their agreement on Monday, July 18, to start negotiations on the integration of Albania and North Macedonia. The result will come the next day Signing of a protocol between Skopje and Sofia Removes the last obstacles.
Twenty-seven will come “Only to agree to open accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia! »has Czech Prime Minister Peter Fiala tweetedIts country holds the rotating presidency of the European Union. “We have taken another important step towards bringing the Western Balkans closer to the EU”He added after a meeting on the matter in Brussels.
Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama and North Macedonia’s Dimitar Kovacevski are expected to formally launch the talks in Brussels on Tuesday, which will take years. They could start with Bulgaria and North Macedonia signing a bilateral protocol on Sunday, initiated by France, which held the EU’s rotating presidency for the first half of the year.
North Macedonia gained EU candidate status nearly two decades ago, and has already had to overcome major differences with Greece to join NATO in March 2020. Bulgaria’s position has blocked Albania’s candidacy since 2014.
Conflict with Bulgaria
Bulgaria had until recently blocked the opening of talks due to disputes between the two countries over a long list of historical and linguistic issues. Under French pressure, the Bulgarian parliament agreed last month to lift its veto in exchange for assurances that North Macedonia would meet some demands on disputed points.
The question of language is particularly sensitive in North Macedonia, Bulgaria considers the Macedonian language to be Bulgarian, while the two countries dispute historical events and figures, mainly derived from the Ottoman past.
The protocol would, among other things, allow Macedonian to become one of the official languages of the European Union. North Macedonia has pledged to change its constitution to include Bulgarians among recognized ethnic groups and to implement a 2017 friendship agreement aimed at eradicating hate speech.
VMRO-DPMNE’s nationalist right is furious and has held Dimitar Kovacevsky in recent days denouncing the compromise. “traitor”. Brussels is pushing for EU expansion in the Balkans, a region whose strategic importance has increased amid the war in Ukraine.
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