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Bulgaria votes to lift EU veto on N. Macedonia

June 24, 2022

North Macedonia's prospects for joining the European Union have received a boost after Bulgarian lawmakers voted to end their veto. The move comes days after a no-confidence vote toppled the government.

Lawmakers in the Bulgarian parliament
Bulgarian lawmakers have voted in favor of the government lifting its block on EU talks for North MacedoniaImage: Georgi Paleykov/NurPhoto/IMAGO

Bulgarian lawmakers on Friday voted in favor of the government lifting its veto on EU membership talks for neighbor North Macedonia.

North Macedonia has seen its path to EU membership talks blocked by the government in Sofia since 2020 over a dispute concerning the rights of the ethnic Bulgarian minority.

"The decision is adopted with 170 votes in favor, 37 were against and 21 abstained," parliament deputy speaker Atanas Atanasov said after the vote.

"Ultimately, is in our interest for the Western Balkans, for North Macedonia and Albania, to receive a perspective to join the EU," Hristo Ivanov, the co-chairman of the right-wing Democratic Bulgaria party who proposed the motion, said during the debate.

He added that the "strongest instrument for pressure is the negotiations process itself."

The vote on ending Bulgaria's veto against its neighbor came two days after Bulgarian lawmakers toppled the government of Prime Minister Kiril Petkov in a vote of no-confidence.

Why was Bulgaria blocking EU talks with North Macedonia?

The fate of North Macedonia, which has been waiting for 17 years to proceed with its EU membership candidacy, has gained increased attention since the EU's support to bring Ukraine into the bloc amid the Russian invasion.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has repeatedly urged other EU members to not sideline the other applicants in the Balkans. France, which holds the EU's six-month rotating presidency until July 1, also launched a last-ditch attempt this week to resolve the dispute between Sofia and Skopje.

Bulgaria has demanded that its neighbor recognize that the Macedonian language has Bulgarian roots as well as acknowledge the country's Bulgarian minority in its constitution.

North Macedonia said on Thursday that the French proposal to recognize the minority in a preamble to the constitution was "unacceptable."

ab/kb (Reuters, AP, AFP)

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