N.Macedonia says EU bid held hostage by Bulgaria

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Skopje (Republic of North Macedonia) (AFP) – North Macedonia’s prime minister said on Saturday that his country’s long-held dream of joining the EU was being held hostage by neighboring Bulgaria.

Speaking alongside German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who is on a whirlwind tour of the Balkans, Dimitar Kovacevski told reporters that “one EU member state…holds two candidate countries, North Macedonia and Turkey. ‘Albania, hostage on the road to EU integration’. .

His comments clearly referred to Bulgaria, which in 2020 blocked North Macedonia’s ambition to start EU membership talks.

The two countries have long disputed over history and language, including Bulgaria’s claim that the Macedonian language is a dialect of Bulgarian.

They also both claim certain historical events and figures, mostly from the Ottoman era.

Scholz said his country was “serious about the European integration of the states in the region and, of course, this particularly applies to North Macedonia”.

Later on Saturday, Scholz traveled to Sofia where he met his Bulgarian counterpart Kiril Petkov.

Petkov said Bulgaria would look to see how the EU accession process could be used to improve the status of the Bulgarian minority in North Macedonia.

Speaking after meeting Petkov, Scholz said “we can be sure of progress”, adding that “the many objections that have accumulated between the two sides over the years must be ironed out”.

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