North Macedonia takes a step towards opening EU accession negotiations – POLITICO

North Macedonia’s parliament on Saturday gave the government in Skopje the go-ahead to resolve a dispute with neighboring Bulgaria, paving the way for the start of EU membership talks.

After three days of heated debate, 68 lawmakers in the 120-seat parliament voted to adopt draft conclusions based on a French proposal aimed at persuading Bulgaria to lift its veto on North Macedonia’s path to membership in the EU. EU.

As part of the French compromise, a tough sell in the country, North Macedonia must commit to amending its constitution to recognize a Bulgarian minority in the country and introduce other new measures to protect minority rights and ban hate speech based on Bulgarian. requests.

Opposition lawmakers, who strongly oppose the deal, abstained from voting and left the room. After the vote, MPs from the Socialist-led government unfurled the flags of the EU and North Macedonia.

Prime Minister Dimitar Kovačevski thanked the deputies who voted in favor. “Finally, the Macedonian language will resonate throughout Europe,” he said. said.

President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyenwho traveled to Skopje on Thursday to urge MEPs to back the deal, and the President of the European Council Charles Michel welcomed the result of the vote.

Von der Leyen said on Thursday that if the deal was backed, the Commission could begin its selection process immediately, with accession negotiations beginning “as early as next week”.

But obstacles remain. Constitutional changes in North Macedonia require a two-thirds majority in parliament and the opposition has repeatedly said it will not support them.

Demonstrations against the deal – many of which have turned violent – have taken place in Skopje almost daily since July 1, when the government announced it would support the compromise. Opponents of the deal say it threatens North Macedonia’s national identity and makes too many concessions to Bulgaria’s claims that the country’s language and ethnicity are rooted in Bulgarian.

North Macedonia has been an EU candidate since 2005. It was already forced to change its name in 2018 from “Macedonia” to overcome a Greek veto that had stalled its progress towards EU membership and NATO. He eventually joined the military alliance in 2020.


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