SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) — Bulgaria’s parliament voted Friday to lift a veto that has long blocked European Union membership negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania, raising fresh hopes that the bloc can now press on with its expansion plans in the Western Balkans amid Russia’s war in Ukraine.
France, which currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency, had made last-ditch efforts this week to resolve an ethnic and cultural dispute between Bulgaria and North Macedonia that was the source of the veto.
The Bulgarian government had insisted that North Macedonia formally recognize that its language had Bulgarian roots, acknowledge in its constitution a Bulgarian minority and quash “hate speech” against Bulgaria. North Macedonia said that its identity and language weren’t open for discussion.
Under the French proposal, North Macedonia would have to recognize in the preamble of its constitution that Bulgarians are one of the country’s constitutive ethnicities. North Macedonia made it clear at a Thursday summit of EU leaders that the French proposal was “unacceptable” in its current form.
North Macedonia has held EU candidate status for 17 years and received a green light in 2020 to begin accession talks, although no date was set for the start of negotiations.