Balkans sign contract to unlock EU enlargement negotiations

european union

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Today 15:38

Bulgaria has been blocking the start of accession negotiations for years because of the conflict over Macedonian recognition.

Bulgaria has been blocking the start of accession negotiations for years because of the conflict over Macedonian recognition.

Skopje, North Macedonia

Photo courtesy of: Shutterstock

The two states of the Balkans have signed an agreement allowing North Macedonia and Albania to formally initiate negotiations to join the European Union.

Bujar Osmani, the Foreign Minister of North Macedonia, signed a protocol with Bulgarian responders in Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, on Sunday.

The move took place the day after the North Macedonian parliament approved the European Union’s proposal to resolve the Balkan conflict and unleash the expansion of the organization.

Bulgaria has been blocking the start of accession negotiations for years due to the recognition of the Macedonian language and the conflict over the rights of the Bulgarian people in North Macedonia. Albania’s negotiations have also been postponed because they are linked to North Macedonia in the membership process.

Roadmap for resolution

The document signed on Sunday will guide Bulgaria and North Macedonia through resolving discrepancies.

“For us, it’s a historic opportunity for us to have the opportunity to begin accession negotiations with the European Union after the Republic of North Macedonia has won 17 years of candidate status,” Osmani told reporters. ..

On Saturday, 68 members of the 120-member parliamentary meeting in North Macedonia voted in favor of a motion to return the EU-provided negotiation framework to the government.

By approving the EU’s proposal, “we are still the only way that no one has offered an alternative,” Prime Minister Dimital Kobachevsky said at the beginning of a three-day discussion on Thursday. rice field. “We are moving the country quickly and starting to change in the process of negotiations.”

“Difficult trade-offs”

The agreement could allow North Macedonia to hold its first intergovernmental meeting with the EU (starting formal negotiations) “within a few days,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in Skopje. I told a member of the Diet.

The US State Department welcomed the vote. “We recognize the difficult trade-offs considered in this compromise that recognizes and respects North Macedonian cultural identity and Macedonian,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in an email statement. Said.

The former Yugoslav country faces multiple hurdles on its way to western integration, including having to change its official name to resolve a dispute with neighboring Greece before joining NATO in 2020. increase.

Still, the deal caused tensions in North Macedonia, with thousands protesting for two weeks. Opposition said the EU’s proposal did not adequately guarantee recognition of the country’s language and national identity. Both Skopje’s government and EU authorities have rejected these claims.

Opposition lawmakers heckled Kobachevsky on Thursday and had a poster with a “No!” Sign. As he said, he is blowing a kind of horn, vuvuzela. Thousands protested outside the Capitol and 10 were detained.

The EU-sponsored agreement aims to ease doubts between the Balkans that Brock is still working on expansion amid concerns about Russia’s growing influence. Their concerns that they may be left behind have intensified since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, and EU leaders have begun to decide to approve both Ukraine and Moldova as potential members. rice field.

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