Skopje expects Bulgarian veto on launch of EU talks on November 17

By bne IntelliNews November 16, 2020

The EU will not give the green light for the start of an Intergovernmental Conference with North Macedonia at the meeting of its foreign ministers on November 17 due to the Bulgarian veto, North Macedonia’s PM Zoran Zaev said.

Zaev was speaking in Berlin on November 16 where he received the Human Rights Award 2020 from the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) foundation. Zaev was awarded by FES in recognition of his contribution to peace policy, based on the conclusion of the Friendship Agreement with Bulgaria in 2017 and the Prespa name deal with Greece in 2018. 

Zaev underlined that despite the veto, the authorities will continue efforts to find a possible solution with Sofia next month when Germany, as the current holder of the EU presidency, hopes to launch EU accession talks with North Macedonia.

“We will probably not get good news from the General Affairs Council in Brussels tomorrow," Zaev was cited by Deutsche Welle, adding that talks with Bulgaria will continue in the coming period in the hope of reaching a solution in December.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, who met Zaev in Berlin, was cited by news agency MIA as saying that Germany will do everything in its power to ensure the accession talks with North Macedonia start in December.

"We are having intensive talks to hold the first intergovernmental conference this year during the German presidency," Maas said.

In March, North Macedonia, alongside Albania, was invited to launch EU accession talks later this year, but during the summer Bulgaria set its own conditions for Skopje which blocked the accession process.

In September, Bulgaria sent a controversial memorandum to EU members with the aim of incorporating its requirements into the accession negotiation framework for Skopje, explaining that Bulgaria has issues with North Macedonia that should be resolved prior to the start of negotiations. The main issues include the negation of the Macedonian language and history.

MIA reported on November 17 that no other EU members accept the Bulgarian demand for a separate chapter number 35 to be included in the negotiation framework for Skopje focused on bilateral issues.

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