Yesterdays meeting of the European Union (EU) member states’ Ministers of Foreign Affairs in the General Affairs Council did not lead to the approval of the negotiating platforms with Albania and North Macedonia, print and electronic media report. The EU FMs failed to approve them, regardless of an appeal issued by over 20 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), who called on the European Council to cease delaying EU accession talks any further for Albania and North Macedonia.
Germany and EU institutions have voiced dismay over Bulgaria’s ongoing veto on North Macedonia accession talks.
“It’s a single country [Bulgaria], one country only, which wasn’t able to agree to the negotiating framework,” Germany’s minister for EU affairs, Michael Roth, said in Brussels on Tuesday (8 December) after talks with his 26 EU counterparts.
“I’m sure you can feel my very personal disappointment. Myself, the German foreign minister [Heiko Mass], and the chancellor [Angela Merkel] were very committed to this process,” Roth added.
“Bulgaria should approve the opening of the intergovernmental conference [IGC] with North Macedonia as soon as possible,” a cross-party group of MEPs dealing with the Western Balkans also said in an open letter on Tuesday.
North Macedonia had hoped to start talks this year after the pro-EU government of prime minister Zoran Zaev helped clean up the corruption and put an end to the nationalist politics of former leader Nikola Gruevski.
But Bulgaria says North Macedonia has failed to comply with the 2017 treaty on grounds that its Gruevski-era school textbooks still tell a nationalist version of history, for instance, by laying claim to past Bulgarian heroes.
Some diplomats in Brussels have speculated that Sofia’s objections are a pre-election stunt that will melt away in the new year.
But other EU diplomats believe Bulgaria will keep on fighting for the concessions, which would be political suicide for Zaev if he adopted them, meaning that the veto is here to stay.
“The [European] perspective [of the Western Balkans] remains unchanged and it’s very clear and all member states agree to this,” Mamer, the EU commission spokesman, also said on Tuesday.
“The current hold-up is jeopardizing the [European] Union’s credibility in the Western Balkans and reducing the EU’s trans-formative power and impact in the region,” the MEPs added.
“The declared commitment of Bulgaria to have a role as a regional leader … has shifted into its purely national interest against good neighborly relations and EU values,” Katerina Jakimovska, an analyst at the Wilfred Martens Centre for European Studies, a think-tank in Brussels, said.
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