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Bulgaria and North Macedonia sign agreement paving the way for EU accession talks

#Bulgaria #North #Macedonia #sign #agreement #paving #accession #talks

EU member Bulgaria and North Macedonia signed an agreement in Sofia on Sunday, paving the way for EU membership talks for the tiny Balkan nation and its Albanian neighbor.

North Macedonia’s Prime Minister Dimitar Kovacevski announced on Saturday that Skopje had reached a compromise with Bulgaria in a long-running dispute, allowing them to start accession talks.

EU member Bulgaria had until recently blocked any progress for such talks over a dispute between the countries over linguistic and historical issues.

The dispute also blocked Albania’s bid to join the 27-nation bloc.

But last month the Bulgarian parliament agreed to lift its veto in exchange for EU guarantees that North Macedonia will meet certain demands on contentious issues.

North Macedonia’s Foreign Minister Bujar Osmani welcomed the “historic opportunity” for his country to start EU accession talks at the signing ceremony on Sunday.

Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, said on Twitter: “We will do our best to start the intergovernmental conferences on the accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania in Brussels as soon as possible.”

“The agreement contains ambitious measures to solve unresolved bilateral issues,” said Bulgarian Foreign Minister Teodora Genchovska, who warned that these issues could take “months or years” to be resolved.

The strategic importance of the Western Balkans for the EU has increased since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.

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