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North Macedonia and EU near 'possible breakthrough' on entry talks

Published July 06,2022

Long-delayed entry talks to admit North Macedonia into the European Union could begin immediately, European Council President Charles Michel said on Tuesday in Skopje.

"Together we are on the verge of a possible breakthrough in your country's EU accession process," Michel said at a press conference with Dimitar Kovačevski, prime minister of North Macedonia.

In late 2020, Bulgaria blocked the launch of EU membership negotiations with North Macedonia, in a dispute linked to shared history, language and the rights of North Macedonia's Bulgarian minority.

France has recently presented various compromise options in an attempt to make progress on the issue, as it wrapped up its six-month presidency of the EU.

These proposals from France were incorporated into the EU negotiating framework that has now been put to North Macedonia for support.

Kovačevski said alongside Michel that the framework was acceptable. However, Kovačevski added he wanted the North Macedonia's parliament to discuss the proposals as well.

In recent days, supporters of the largest opposition party in North Macedonia, the nationalist VMRO-DPMNE, had demonstrated against the adoption of the EU negotiating framework.

VMRO-DPMNE decried the latest French proposal as a "legalization of the assimilation of the Macedonian people," accusing Kovačevski's government of accepting "humiliations and distortions of identity."

The framework contains few of the original Bulgarian demands but does include a commitment that North Macedonia include the ethnic Bulgarians in the preamble to its constitution.

A move to begin talks with North Macedonia also advances Albania's entry, blocked as an extension as the EU is handling both applications together.

Prior to Bulgaria's veto, Greece had blocked North Macedonia's accession for several years.