North Macedonia: Scholz calls for EU accession negotiations

North Macedonia has been a candidate for EU membership for 17 years. And has been waiting for the start of accession negotiations ever since. Now Chancellor Scholz is putting the pressure on.

Skopje.

Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz has called for the immediate start of EU accession negotiations with North Macedonia.

“The accession negotiations that were promised two years ago must start now. In any case, I will campaign for it,” said the SPD politician on Saturday after talks with North Macedonia’s Prime Minister Dimitar Kovacevski in Skopje. “My wish: It should work now.”

He reiterated that Germany is serious about integrating the Western Balkan states into the European Union. “This applies in particular to North Macedonia. The EU has its word to North Macedonia in particular, which has fulfilled all the requirements for the start of accession negotiations.” Scholz praised the “political force” that made it possible for the country to reach an understanding with Greece. “That’s why we should succeed in the rest of the tasks.”

Almost 20 years ago, the six countries in the western Balkans were given the prospect of joining the EU. “The European Union also has an obligation here to implement and realize the credibility of our own promises,” said the Chancellor.

Reforms in North Macedonia

Kovacevski made it clear that his country hoped the EU summit in June would confirm the start of accession negotiations. “We expect a step that we deserve.” North Macedonia has made great efforts and reformed the administration and the judiciary. “Chancellor Scholz’s visit is a strong signal that Berlin recognizes that we meet the criteria for starting accession negotiations.”

Scholz also acknowledged that the country’s citizens and government had “worked very hard” to clear the way for accession negotiations. Now the harvest should be due for these efforts. Scholz encouraged the country to continue along the reform path it had taken. At the same time, he acknowledged that North Macedonia fully supports the EU positions and sanctions against Russia. “This is further proof of how firmly North Macedonia stands on the foundation of European values ​​and is willing to stand up for them.”

Negotiations are blocked

North Macedonia has been an EU accession candidate for years. In July 2020 the EU Commission basically gave the green light for concrete negotiations. However, these are blocked by Bulgaria because of a dispute over historiography and the rights of the Bulgarian minority in North Macedonia.

Kovacevski said in the press conference with Scholz: “We see there is political turbulence in Bulgaria, we have no influence on it, we cannot comment on it or interpret it.” However, it is evident that this question has become a domestic political issue in the neighboring country and is “often instrumentalised and politicized in a one-sided manner”.

At the same time, however, the foreign ministries of both countries are in a process of talks to remove the obstacles to starting EU accession talks. “If a solution that is acceptable to both sides is reached, this will be recorded in a joint document,” said the head of government. “Currently, however, there is no such joint document.” (dpa)

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