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Joining the European Union: Greece threatens North Macedonia with a European Union blockade over a name dispute

Joining the European Union: Greece threatens North Macedonia with a European Union blockade over a name dispute

Greece has a neighbor North Macedonia The use of the country's old name threatens to derail its EU accession plans. Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said ignoring the official text during the swearing-in of North Macedonia's President Gordana Siljanovska Davkova was an “illegal and unacceptable” act. This violates a bilateral agreement concluded in 2018. He added: “Any progress in our bilateral relations and every step that Skopje takes towards Europe depends on sincere respect for the agreement.”

The dispute over the name broke out again

When she was sworn in on Sunday, Siljanovska Davkova used the country's old name “Republic of Macedonia” instead of the official name “Republic of North Macedonia.” “I declare that I will serve as President of Macedonia diligently and responsibly, I will respect the constitution and laws and protect Macedonia’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence,” the politician from the nationalist party VMRO-DPMNE said. The party's politicians announced during the election campaign that they would continue to use the historical name “Macedonia.”

The dispute over the name erupted in the 1990s when the country became independent following the collapse of Yugoslavia. Greece He called for the name to be changed because the region in northern Greece is also called Macedonia. The dispute was settled in 2018 with the name changed to North Macedonia under the so-called Prespa Agreement. This change was a prerequisite for the Balkan country to become a member of NATO in 2020. At that time, Greece also dropped its opposition to joining the European Union.

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Bulgaria: From the EU's point of view, North Macedonia must adhere to the treaties

Greek Ambassador in Scooby According to media reports, they left the swearing-in ceremony, to which foreign representatives were also invited, in protest. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen also said that North Macedonia must “follow the path of reforms and full respect for existing treaties, including the Prespa Agreement.”

Bulgaria also criticized the new president's course. Bulgarian President Rumen Radev warned that the framework for negotiations with North Macedonia approved by the EU Council in 2022 must be adhered to by the leadership in Skopje. Interim Bulgarian Prime Minister Dimitar Glavchev said that the European perspective of the Republic of North Macedonia will depend entirely on the “comprehensive implementation” of all agreements.

North Macedonia has been awaiting accession negotiations for years

North Macedonia has been a candidate for EU membership since 2005. Registration was blocked for years due to a name dispute with Greece. Formal accession negotiations with the EU do not begin until 2022. But even after reaching an agreement with Greece, there was another impasse – this time because of Bulgaria, its eastern neighbour. In 2020, Bulgaria vetoed North Macedonia's accession to the European Union: the government in Sofia demands that Bulgarian minority status be enshrined in North Macedonia's constitution.

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Because of the long waiting period and numerous concessions, many North Macedonians feel abandoned by the European Union. According to one study, the majority cannot get used to the name of the new country. According to experts, this is one of the reasons for the electoral victory of the nationalist party VMRO-DPMNE. With the victory of VMRO-DPMNE, North Macedonia's relations with Greece and also with Bulgaria, whose approval is crucial for accession to the European Union, may deteriorate significantly.