Scholz, Germany's German Ambassador, tries to break down North Macedonia’s EU bid

SKOPJE (North Macedonia) -- On Saturday, the German Chancellor Olaf Scholz visited North Macedonia as well as Bulgaria to try and resolve the dispute that has erupted between the two countries.

Scholz, Germany's German Ambassador, tries to break down North Macedonia’s EU bid

SKOPJE (North Macedonia) -- On Saturday, the German Chancellor Olaf Scholz visited North Macedonia as well as Bulgaria to try and resolve the dispute that has erupted between the two countries. This is a result of European Union membership talks being rescheduled for Albania and North Macedonia.

Bulgaria refused to accept the EU's membership negotiation structure for North Macedonia. This effectively blocks the official start of the accession negotiations with its smaller Balkan neighbour.

Scholz stated that the "West Balkans" are "of strategic importance" to Germany and that Germany is "serious" about supporting European integration.

Scholz stated that "North Macedonia, Albania and the Republic of Kosovo deserve to begin the membership negotiations," during a joint news conference in Skopje with Dimitar Kovachevski, Prime Minister of North Macedonia.

Bulgaria insists that North Macedonia recognize its Bulgarian roots. It also requests that the constitution be amended to include a mention of a Bulgarian minority and eliminate any anti-Bulgarian rhetoric. North Macedonia claims its identity and language cannot be discussed and that the solution must reflect European values.

Kovachevski stated that North Macedonia meets all criteria for starting membership talks with EU. He also called upon EU leaders to grant the green light to open talks at the EU summit scheduled for June 23.

Kovachevski stated that "North Macedonia, Albania and the rest of the EU members cannot be held hostage in this process due to the one EU member blocking."

Scholz left Skopje to travel to Sofia, where he reiterated his support for the opening of EU accession negotiations with North Macedonia (Albania) and Albania.

Scholz, speaking to journalists in Sofia, his final stop on his two-day trip to the region, expressed optimism that progress would be made before France's EU presidency ends on June 30.

With Bulgarian officials, the German chancellor spoke about the war in Ukraine as well as the reduction of Russia's energy dependence.

"I believe that we, the Europeans, are jointly responsible for the EU's stability and the stability in the Balkans. He said that it was important to use the enlargement process immediately for the benefit Europe.

Scholz stated that North Macedonia requires a European perspective. He also said it was difficult to overcome differences between the Balkan neighbours.

He said, "Our history shows that it is enriching for countries when mistrust can be overcome and friendly relations with neighbors."

After talks with Kiril Petkov, Scholz stated that "it's very important" to inject a new energy into the process. He also said that North Macedonia must fulfill certain conditions in order to kick-start it.

Scholz stated, "I will advocate for the next steps to happen."

Petkov stated that Bulgaria has three priorities. The EU must be part the guarantees to allow us to move forward through the European process in order for North Macedonia's inclusion of Bulgarians."

"At the time, we have both a framework position as well as a good neighborliness agreement. He stated that each decision must contain these three priorities and that there are potential European guarantees that it will be achieved.

North Macedonia applied to the EU in 2004. A year later, the European Commission gave a positive evaluation.

After a three-decade-long dispute between Skopje and neighboring Greece over its name, in 2018, EU leaders agreed to formal talks with Albanian and North Macedonia.

The Western Balkan countries are in different stages of EU membership negotiations. Serbia and Montenegro are already negotiating certain chapters of their respective membership agreements. The first step towards membership is the signing of a Stabilization and Association Agreement by Bosnia and Kosovo.

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Veselin Toshkov reported out of Sofia, Bulgaria.

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