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North Macedonia slams ‘blackmail’ in EU entry process

By AFP - Dec 15,2020 - Last updated at Dec 15,2020

PRAGUE — North Macedonia’s foreign minister called on the EU on Tuesday to end the “blackmail” of his country through the imposition of fresh obstacles to its membership of the bloc.

North Macedonia changed its name last year to end a dispute with Greece which had been blocking its EU ambitions, but now it faces opposition from Bulgaria over history and language.

“The European process should not entail the blackmail of any country of Europe or the Western Balkans,” Foreign Minister Bujar Osmani said at an online press conference.

“Our efforts at good relations with neighbours have not been rewarded,” Osmani said, adding that the spat with Bulgaria would have a negative impact on the entire Balkans region.

Bulgaria blocked discussions among EU ministers on North Macedonia’s bid to join the bloc in November.

Sofia wants its small neighbour to recognise what it says are the Bulgarian roots of its language, people and history before allowing the Balkan country to move ahead with the accession process.

After talks with Osmani, Czech Foreign Minister Tomas Petricek said he hoped a compromise might be reached by the end of the year.

“Very intensive talks are under way within the EU on how to reach a breakthrough... we would like to reach a compromise this year,” said Petricek.

“The EU must retain... the status of a reliable partner for countries implementing reforms and doing their homework,” he added.

Osmani hailed the support coming from “26 countries” of the 27-member bloc.

“The support from European countries is the best way to renew enthusiasm and trust in the process. And supporting and accelerating the integration process is the best way to improve relations between neighbours,” he added.

 

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