After Skopje settled its dispute with Bulgaria, North Macedonia is now closer to joining the EU.
Ursula von der Leyen, President of the EU Commission announced Tuesday that the European Union had initiated talks to join NATO with Albania and North Macedonia.
Von der Leyen, speaking at a Brussels press conference, praised Skopje, Tirana, for their achievements on the road to the bloc. These included strengthening the rule-of-law, fighting corruption and implementing various reforms.
She said the governments of the two Balkan nations have been making headway to become EU members because those steps are “You are doing a great job for your country and your people..”
“You are the success of this historic moment. This is the result of all your hard work,” she reiterated.
“This is another significant step in bringing the Western Balkans closer towards the EU. It’s a great success of our presidency,” Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala tweeted on Monday.
North Macedonia (then Macedonia) was granted candidate status back in 2005, but it took Skopje years to resolve some of its disputes with neighboring countries, including Bulgaria, which had blocked the nation’s accession to the EU over linguistic and historical issues.
This opposition also hindered Albania’s progress, given that the EU treats the issue as a part of a single package. Notably, the two nations go together in the EU’s 2021 enlargement package, a comprehensive strategy that sets priorities in removing obstacles for EU membership for the Western Balkans.
But, Bulgaria, North Macedonia, and Tirana were able to reach a settlement on Sunday that would allow Skopje, Tirana, and Tirana, to formalize accession negotiations with EU. North Macedonia, in particular, agreed to amend the nation’s constitution to acknowledge its Bulgarian minority, protect minority rights, and fight hate speech.
Before that, however, the French-led “compromise solution” on the matter sparked fierce protests in North Macedonia, which saw crowds of nationalists rallying outside the parliament building and clashing with the police.
Although it may be years before two Balkan nations become full fledged EU members of the EU, there is currently no deadline. Candidates must pass an assessment of their legislation to be eligible for membership.
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