Balkan State’s EU Entry Talks Hang on Bulgarian Political Crisis
(Bloomberg) -- European Union leaders will resolve an impasse over opening accession talks with North Macedonia once its neighbor Bulgaria resolves its political limbo, the bloc’s special envoy to the western Balkans said.
Miroslav Lajcak said starting negotiations with the former Yugoslav republic, whose accession path is being held up by Bulgaria in a dispute over North Macedonia’s name, the origin of its language and the two nation’s shared history, remained a “priority” for EU leaders.
But Bulgaria has been paralyzed by a political stalemate among its top political forces. After holding two inconclusive elections this year, it’s poised to hold a third as its bickering parties have refused to cooperate with each other in forming a new coalition government.
“We need to overcome this last obstacle with Bulgaria,” Lajcak said on Monday in a virtual conference based in Alpbach, Austria. “We will resolve it as soon as the political situation in Bulgaria allows it, or as soon as there is a political party there with a clear mandate to rule.”
North Macedonia has been trying to bring its 2 million people into the EU since 2005, when it was recognized as a candidate country. It has since gained membership in NATO and resolved a long-standing dispute with Greece by changing its name in 2019. Bulgaria’s objection stopped the opening of entry negotiations, as member nations have veto power over the proceedings.
“Even after the disappointment of delayed entry talks, we choose the European Union,” North Macedonia’s prime minister, Zoran Zaev, said in the same panel. “Other countries such as China, Russia have interests here and will try to use the situation, but that will not change our view. That will not compare to our EU dreams.”
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.