Germany’s Scholz tries to unblock North Macedonia’s EU bid
SKOPJE. North Macedonia — Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz visited North Macedonia on Saturday to try to resolve the dispute that has seen EU membership talks with Albania and North Macedonia stalled.
Bulgaria refuses approval of the EU’s membership negotiation structure for North Macedonia. This effectively blocks the official start to accession negotiations with its smaller Balkan neighbour.
Scholz stated that the “West Balkans” are “of strategic importance” to Germany and that Germany is “serious” about supporting European integration in the region.
“Albania and North Macedonia deserve to begin the membership negotiations,” Scholz stated at a joint news conference with Dimitar Kovachevski, the North Macedonia Prime Minister.
Bulgaria insists that North Macedonia must recognize its language’s Bulgarian roots and include a mention of a Bulgarian minority within its constitution. It also wants to end allegedly anti-Bulgarian rhetoric. North Macedonia insists that its identity and language cannot be discussed and that the solution must reflect European values.
Kovachevski stated that North Macedonia has met all criteria for starting membership talks with EU. This was based on a merit system. He also called on EU leaders again to grant the green light to open talks at the EU summit in June 23..
“North Macedonia, Albania and other EU member states are not allowed to be hostages in this process,” Kovachevski stated.
Scholz left Skopje to travel to Sofia, where he stated again that he supports the opening of EU accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia.
Scholz, speaking to journalists in Sofia, the last stop on his two-day trip to the region, expressed optimism that progress would be made before France’s EU presidency ends on June 30..
The German chancellor spoke with officials from Bulgaria about the war in Ukraine as well as the reduction of Russia’s energy dependence.
” I believe that we, as Europeans are responsible for the EU’s stability and the stability in the Balkans. He stated that it was important to use the enlargement process immediately, for the benefit Europe.
Scholz stated that North Macedonia requires a solid European perspective. He also said that it was difficult to overcome differences between the Balkan neighbors.
” “Our history shows that it is enriching for countries when mistrust can be overcome and friendly relations with neighbors,” he said.
” “It’s very important that we bring a new energy into this process,” Scholz stated after meeting with Kiril Petkov, the Bulgarian Prime Minister. He also said that North Macedonia must meet some conditions in order to kick-start it.
” “I will advocate that these next steps occur,” Scholz stated.
“Bulgaria identifies three main priorities. The EU must be part the guarantees to allow us to move forward through the European process and ensure the inclusion of Bulgarians into the constitution of North Macedonia.
“At a similar time, we have a framework and a good neighborliness agreement. He stated that each decision must include these three priorities and that the EU could offer potential opportunities to have European guarantees that it will happen.
North Macedonia applied to the EU in 2004. The European Commission gave a positive evaluation a year later. After a nearly three-decade-long dispute between Skopje and neighboring Greece over its name,
EU leaders agreed that formal accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia would be held.
Western Balkan states are at different stages in EU membership negotiations. Serbia and Montenegro are already negotiating certain chapters of their membership agreements. The first step towards membership is the signing of a Stabilization and Association Agreement by Bosnia and Kosovo.
Veselin Toshkov reported from Sofia, Bulgaria.
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