May Plans First U.K. Visit to Republic of Macedonia Since 1999

(Bloomberg) -- Theresa May will visit the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia this week in the first planned trip to the western Balkans by a U.K. prime minister in almost two decades.

May will first attend a European Union summit with western Balkan leaders in the Bulgarian capital Sofia on May 17, discussing the region’s next steps on the path to EU entry, May’s office said in an email Thursday. She’s the first U.K. leader to go to the country since Tony Blair visited the Skopje refugee camps during the Kosovo crisis in 1999.

The prime minister “will restate the U.K.’s desire to work with European allies to promote greater stability, security and prosperity across the region,” even after it leaves the 28-nation bloc next year, according to the statement.

The government in Skopje returned on the EU accession path after Prime Minister Zoran Zaev took office in the first leadership change in a decade a year ago. The former Yugoslav state is working to solve a dispute over its name with neighboring Greece, which believes it to be a territorial claim on its northern province of the same name and has blocked Skopje’s efforts to join both the EU and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

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