European Union member states agreed Monday to open accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia.
“The @EUCouncil led by @EU2022_CZ has just agreed to open accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia!” tweeted Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala, whose country holds the EU’s rotating presidency.
“We have taken another important step towards bringing the Western Balkans closer to the EU. It’s a great success of our Presidency,” he added.
Thanking French President Emmanuel Macron and the French presidency for their mediation efforts between Bulgaria and North Macedonia, which finally led to the former’s removal of its veto over the latter’s accession, Fiala said the leaders of Albania and North Macedonia will meet Tuesday in Brussels to discuss the next steps.
Bulgaria had been blocking North Macedonia’s efforts to join the European Union, accusing it of disrespecting historical and cultural ties. Sofia has made several demands to Skopje, including accepting that the language of North Macedonia is derived from Bulgarian and recognition of a Bulgarian minority in the country.
Macron presented a proposal that included resolving the problems between Bulgaria and North Macedonia within the framework of EU negotiations.
The proposal turned into a European proposal after it was approved by EU member states. It envisaged the lifting of Bulgaria’s two-year veto on North Macedonia’s EU membership.
The Bulgarian parliament in late June voted to lift the veto under certain conditions.
The vote came just one day after Ukraine and Moldova were granted EU candidate status, partly in response to Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Although Bulgaria was the first country to recognize North Macedonia as a state, there are debates regarding a shared history that cannot be shared. Discussions on the subject are left to the authority of experts.
North Macedonia since 2005 and Albania since 2014 have been candidate countries.