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Bulgaria dangles hope on EU enlargement veto

Bulgaria has raised hope of an impending breakthrough within the EU’s Western Balkans enlargement by endorsing a French blueprint for North Macedonia accession talks.

The ray of sunshine got here when Bulgaria’s Gerb opposition occasion, led by former prime minister Boyko Borissov, backed the French circumstances on Wednesday (22 June).

His resolution meant MPs in Sofia had a possible majority to vote on opening talks.

The cross-party help got here regardless of the very fact Bulgarian prime minister Kiril Petkov was defenestrated in a no-confidence vote the identical day in a row on anti-corruption reforms.

If North Macedonia additionally accepts the French blueprint, the accession talks would mark the EU’s first main step ahead within the Western Balkans after years of enlargement stagnation — and amid fears of a grim Russian renaissance within the area.

“Russia’s unjustified and unprovoked navy aggression towards Ukraine is having a big impression on all the European continent,” a French draft for the North Macedonia accession talks, dated 17 June, mentioned.

The EU Fee thanked Borissov for his “historic resolution” on Wednesday, whereas urging him to make the “obligatory proposals to parliament right now so Europe can transfer ahead”.

But when Bulgaria votes ‘Sure’, then North Macedonian prime minister Dimitar Kovačevski will even must get the deal by means of parliament.

And meaning it might be untimely for French president Emmanuel Macron to have a good time at his Western Balkans summit in Brussels on Thursday.

Bulgaria has been vetoing North Macedonia since 2020 in a poisonous dispute on the purportedly Bulgarian origins of North Macedonia’s tradition and language.

And Kovačevski doesn’t have the two-thirds majority he wants for an affirmative vote, whereas the nationalist VMRO-DPMNE opposition occasion has spoken out towards Macron’s plan.

There should be “clear safety of Macedonian identification” within the EU negotiating framework, Kovačevski mentioned on Wednesday.

“Historic points can’t be standards,” and Sofia mustn’t attempt to smuggle them right into a “bilateral protocol that has not but been harmonised with Bulgaria”, he added.

The French negotiation framework for the accession talks, which was leaked in Balkan media, says: “Macedonia will undertake by means of an inclusive course of an Motion Plan devoted to the safety of the rights of individuals belonging to minorities”.

It additionally speaks of a “roadmap” and a “unilateral declaration on the Macedonian language” to be issued by North Macedonia.

The Motion Plan and roadmap, that are nonetheless being finalised between Skopje and Sofia, are anticipated to comprise prickly Bulgarian phrases.

These embody North Macedonia amending the preamble of its structure to make point out of Bulgarians, Croats, and Montenegrins as nationwide minorities.

“Implementation of this roadmap and Motion Plan might be continuously monitored and usually addressed on the Intergovernmental conferences [IGCs] all through the method,” the French draft proposal mentioned.

And all this meant “the primary IGC [opening the accession talks] may simply be a photo-op, if Bulgaria was nonetheless capable of veto each additional step within the course of [over historical issues],” a European diplomatic supply mentioned.

There should be “sturdy assurances from each Bulgaria and the European Union that Bulgaria is not going to make new conditional calls for” through the talks, Kovačevski mentioned.

Kovačevski in addition to the Albanian and Serbian leaders had threatened to boycott Thursday’s Western Balkans summit in protest on the stalemate.

Albania’s accession talks are linked to North Macedonia’s within the intricate EU process.

However the temper additional improved on Wednesday once they mentioned they’d attend the summit in any case.

The draft French assertion for the primary IGC, if it ever goes forward, mentioned: “It is a historic second for us all, which marks a milestone within the evolution of our relationship”.

“Your nation [North Macedonia] is a part of European historical past, heritage and tradition, and we look ahead to additional intensifying our already well-established ties,” it mentioned.

In the meantime, Western Balkan and EU leaders additionally plan to name “for the acceleration of the EU integration course of” in a summit assertion in Brussels on Thursday.

They goal to focus on “the urgency of constructing tangible progress” in “the normalisation of relations between Serbia and Kosovo”.

However the EU is to offer nothing to Bosnia, which, along with Kosovo, do not even have EU accession “candidate” standing — step one within the course of, some 19 years after it started.



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