Paris makes last bid to save EU enlargement, say Bulgarian diplomats
Paris is ready to include Bulgarian demands in the roadmap for EU negotiations with North Macedonia in order to lift Sofia’s veto on the start of talks. This was stated by Bulgarian diplomats to local media on Thursday (June 16). However, it is not yet clear whether this initiative will be enough to allay the doubts of Bulgarian lawmakers.
Sofia demands that North Macedonia include Bulgarians in its constitution while ensuring that historical disputes are settled.
In 2020, Bulgaria refused to give the green light in Brussels to the Skopje roadmap for negotiations with the EU, called the “negotiating framework”, due to disputes over language and common history. For its part, Skopje demanded that the veto be lifted and that all points of disagreement be addressed when the chapters are opened, which would mark the start of accession negotiations.
They also said the changes to the constitution would be difficult to implement as they require consensus in parliament, which could prove difficult to achieve.
The French Presidency of the Council of the EU (PFUE) is now ready to include Bulgarian demands in North Macedonia’s negotiating framework so that the EU becomes the guarantor of their realization, Bulgarian diplomats have told the media. Mediapool.bg online information Thursday.
Bulgarian diplomats expect the French proposal to be approved by other EU member states.
However, it is uncertain whether the authorities will accept the French proposal in Sofia as a political crisis brews and the country prepares for new snap elections in the fall, which would make it the fourth legislative elections. within two years.
The Council of Ministers on Wednesday transferred all responsibility for the veto to parliament, where the government risks losing power after being deprived of a majority in the National Assembly.
Any proposal coming from the French presidency, the EU or the member states of the bloc will be immediately transmitted to the committee in charge of Foreign Policy in the Bulgarian Parliament.
Macedonian Prime Minister Stevo Pendarovski and VMRO-DPNE opposition leader Hristijan Mickoski, who previously opposed the constitutional changes, now say they want guarantees that the veto will be lifted if they have venue.
“The Republic of North Macedonia will demand strong guarantees from Bulgaria and the EU that the inclusion of Bulgarians in the country’s Constitution is the last condition for starting negotiations for accession to the European Union”Pendarovski said after meeting EU Council President Charles Michel in Ohrid, Bulgarian national radio reports.
Michel is visiting the country to participate in the Prespa dialogue forum, which opened on Thursday. “There is a political will to modify the Constitution”said Stevo Pendarovski.
He explained that this process is long and complicated. Asked about the possibility of a breakthrough at the EU leaders’ summit, Michel said everyone was working hard to break the deadlock. He declined to comment on France‘s proposal to lift the veto.
A destiny linked to that of Ukraine
The issue of Sofia’s veto, which prevented Albania from starting accession negotiations with Brussels since Tirana’s enlargement perspective is linked to that of Skopje, has become particularly sensitive in recent months due to political pressure exercised to ensure that Ukraine responds rapidly to its application to join the EU.
A number of southern European member states have already expressed concern that granting Kyiv EU candidate status could sideline candidates from the Western Balkans, to whom Brussels has made promises that do not have not yet been held.
Greece, for example, has pushed for EU enlargement to include the Western Balkan region, especially given the current instability in Eastern Europe.
Diplomatic sources in Athens highlighted to EURACTIV the efforts of “third countries” to destabilize the Western Balkans and warned that this could intensify following instability in Eastern Europe.
Some of those doubts were allayed on Wednesday, when three of the four Western Balkan EU candidates, namely Albania, North Macedonia and Montenegro, signed a joint statement with Ukraine in support of its candidacy for membership. the EU in order to signal that accelerating the integration of the warring eastern country would not disrupt their own integration into the EU, but rather that their efforts should “complement and reinforce each other”.
The German, French and Italian leaders traveled to kyiv on Thursday to pledge their support for Ukraine, which will receive ” immediately “ the official status of candidate to the European Union.
Speaking to the press, French President Emmanuel Macron said granting immediate candidate status to Ukraine would be combined with a roadmap that would also take into account the Western Balkans and Moldova.
Union leaders will meet their Western Balkan counterparts next Thursday (June 23) in Brussels, a meeting which will coincide with the bloc’s summit which is expected to focus on Ukraine’s EU bid.
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