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EU Starts Accession Negotiations With Albania, North Macedonia

The European Union (EU) on Tuesday opened accession talks with western Balkan countries Albania and North Macedonia after two years of stalemate.

“Today, Albania and North Macedonia open accession negotiations with the EU,” declared European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen at a joint press conference with prime ministers of the two countries and the EU rotating presidency, the Czech Republic, before an inter-governmental conference.

Prime Minister of North Macedonia Dimitar Kovachevski underlined his joy that the Macedonian language will be recognized as an official language of the EU, while von der Leyen promised that there would be no asterisk or footnote in official EU documents translated into Macedonian.

North Macedonia has been a candidate member of the EU for almost 18 years, and Albania for eight years.

Both countries have been awaiting their first intergovernmental conference with the EU since March 2020, as Bulgaria blocked the process.

Bulgaria used its veto, as the country asked for changes to North Macedonia’s constitution to recognize the Bulgarian minority there, and for removing “hate speech” from textbooks and resolving disputes over language and history, before accession talks could begin.

On June 24 this year, Bulgaria lifted its two-year-long veto on North Macedonia’s EU membership bid.

French President Emmanuel Macron, who was leading the European Council for the past six months, worked up a proposal to unlock the situation that he submitted to North Macedonia on June 30.

On July 16, North Macedonia’s parliament voted to approve the conclusions of the French proposal.