The first intergovernmental conference between the EU countries and Albania on Tuesday July 19 2022

The Assembly of North Macedonia on Saturday 15. July 2022 approved the French proposal for the settlement of the dispute with Bulgaria, which will pave the way for the European integration process.

The proposal was approved with 68 votes in favour and none against. Opposition MPs  did not participate in the voting process.

The deputies voted for seven conclusions drawn up by the parliamentary group of the Social Democratic League (LSDM), which are related to the guarantees for the Macedonian language and identity.

“The Assembly obliges the Government, through the delegations in the talks, to adhere to the definition of unconditional respect for the language, identity and culture of the Macedonian people, as elements that are not negotiated with the EU. In the framework of the talks, the Macedonian language should be without clarifications, without additions and without footnotes”, it is said, among other things, in the proposal-conclusions that were presented by the Parliamentary Group of SDSM.

The vote comes after this proposal was debated in the Assembly of North Macedonia for three days.

The debate was followed by objections and even attempts at physical confrontation.

Throughout the debate, MPs from the opposition party, VMRO-DPMNE, prevented the MPs from the ruling parties from giving their speeches by blowing their horns.

What does the French proposal contain?

The French proposal consists of seven points. The part that has provoked the most debate is the issue of language and historical past, which is part of the Good Neighbour Agreement with Bulgaria and as such, this agreement is also included in the French proposal.

In the third point, it is emphasized that, “On North Macedonia’s path towards membership in the European Union, the Council recalls the importance of achieving tangible results and implementing bilateral agreements in good faith, including the Prespa Agreement with Greece and the Neighbourhood Treaty (agreement) good with Bulgaria”.

In the French proposal, the Macedonian language is defined as such, that is, the Macedonian language without additional explanations or footnotes, while it is apostrophized that the EU will consider the statements of the two states, North Macedonia and Bulgaria, in relation to the language.

In the fourth point of the French proposal, in addition to the obligation to carry out reforms, it is emphasized that, “The Council in this regard welcomes the intention of North Macedonia to initiate and achieve as a matter of priority the constitutional changes, with the aim of including in the Constitution the citizens who live within the borders of the state and who are part of other people, like the Bulgarians”.

Through the French proposal, the aim is to overcome the differences that North Macedonia has with Bulgaria and to unlock the beginning of negotiations for membership in the European family.

The French proposal envisages overcoming the differences between Skopje and Sofia regarding the Macedonian language, identity and historical past, while the Bulgarian side asks the Macedonian side to include the Bulgarian minority in the preamble of the Constitution, as equal to other peoples.

The Macedonian Prime Minister, Dimitar Kovacevski, in the speech before the deputies, which was followed by whistles from the opposition, said that the Government is determined “to stay on the path of protecting the Macedonian language, identity, historical and cultural features of the Macedonian people through their equality with European nations”.

However, VMRO-DPMNE MPs continue to accuse the Government of “national treason” since, according to them, “the French proposal destroys the Macedonian language and national identity”.

The opposition MPs are not even convinced by the statement of the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, who on Thursday in the speech before the MPs said that the proposal guarantees the Macedonian language and that no one should be worried about its identity.

Disagreements on these issues have caused Bulgaria, as a member of the European Union, to block the start of North Macedonia’s EU membership negotiations for more than two years. /Radio Free Europe/

The first Albania-North Macedonia intergovernmental conference will be held on Tuesday 19. July 2022, where the talks for membership in the European Union will officially begin. At the conference, government representatives gather, and the basic frameworks are defined. These frameworks set out the guidelines and principles governing membership negotiations with each candidate country. The Commission will immediately begin the necessary preparatory work.

Negotiations take place between ministers and ambassadors of the governments of the EU and the candidate country in what is called an intergovernmental conference.

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