North Macedonia has removed another obstacle to the accession negotiations with the European Union. Parliament in Skopje on Saturday approved an agreement with Bulgaria to recognize the Bulgarian minority in North Macedonia. The agreement proposed by France in June had already been approved by the Bulgarian parliament, ending Bulgaria’s resistance to start talks on North Macedonia’s accession to the European Union.
As in Bulgaria, the decision was made in North Macedonia against fierce opposition from the opposition. There were also protests in the streets of the country. However, 68 out of 120 deputies in Skopje voted in favor of the agreement, which provides for a constitutional amendment. Representatives of the conservative national opposition party VMRO-DPMNE left the hall before the vote.
They consider the French proposal harmful and speak of the danger of the “Bulgarian” in North Macedonia. Among other things, the plan provides for the protection of the rights of the Bulgarian minority, whose population does not exceed a few thousand, under the constitution. However, a two-thirds majority in Parliament is required for the corresponding change, which is not currently in sight.
Neighbors put obstacles
North Macedonia has been waiting for talks with the European Union to start since 2008. Bulgaria was not the first neighboring country to put obstacles in its way. For years, Greece blocked the southeastern European country’s rapprochement with the European Union and NATO. Macedonia changed its name and constitution to overcome this.
Next, resistance came from Sofia to extract concessions from Skopje on minorities, historical interpretation and language issues. The fact that European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen reassured Macedonian parliament members on Thursday does not change: “Bilateral issues such as the interpretation of history are not a condition for accession talks.” The opposition, as well as liberal critics, fear that the compromise will allow Bulgaria to further impede the progress of negotiations. (reu/apa)
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