Bulgaria uses veto to block North Macedonia's EU enlargement process

Bulgaria uses veto to block North Macedonia's EU enlargement process
By Valentina Dimitrievska in Skopje December 8, 2020

Bulgaria has blocked North Macedonia’s EU enlargement process by using its veto to prevent the launch of EU accession talks this year, the government in Skopje said on December 8. The process was also blocked for fellow EU accession candidate Albania. 

In March 2020, both Skopje and Tirana were invited to launch EU accession talks later this year, but during the summer Bulgaria set its own conditions for Skopje.

Sofia put the first veto on North Macedonia’s EU process in November, but EU officials said at the time they would try to help, hoping for a positive outcome ahead of the EU summit on December 10-11.

However, Bulgaria which does not recognise the Macedonian language and national identity, did not change its stance. Bulgaria wants North Macedonia to accept that the Macedonian language is a Bulgarian dialect and that Macedonian nation was artificially created in 1944, and to admit that there is no Macedonian minority in Bulgaria.

Bulgaria wants its controversial demands related to its non-recognition of the Macedonian language and identity to be included in the negotiating framework, but the other EU member states did not agree.

“Unfortunately, the enlargement process as a strategic goal of the EU was blocked by Bulgaria as an EU member. This is an irresponsible and serious geostrategic mistake,” North Macedonia’s government said in a statement on December 8, following Bulgaria's final decision.

“It is impossible for the Macedonian national identity to be a subject of negotiations,” the government underlined.

After Bulgaria failed again to approve the negotiation framework for North Macedonia on December 7, the EU enlargement topic was removed from the agenda of the meeting of EU ministers for European affairs on December 8.

Regarding Albania, the Netherlands underlined in November that Tirana needs to meet all conditions set by the EU Council before the start of its EU accession talks, such as the Supreme Court’s ability to do its work, and implementation of the new electoral law.

North Macedonia’s government said in the latest statement that the failure to approve the negotiating framework is detrimental to the fundamental principles and values of the EU, but added that despite the veto it will speed up the reform process.

German Minster for European Affairs Michael Roth was cited by news agency MIA as saying that he is convinced that the solution for the negotiation framework for North Macedonia will be found during Portugal's upcoming presidency of the European Council. 

“There is no need for plan B for North Macedonia, the question is only when the country will launch EU negotiations, and I am sure this will be overcome,” Roth was cited as saying.

On December 1, the government in Skopje appointed ex-PM Vlado Buckovski as special representative for its relationship with Bulgaria with the aim of speeding up the process of finding a solution to the dispute with its eastern neighbour.