Bulgaria Tries to Explain Its Veto on North Macedonia EU Accession under EU Pressure

Facing pressure from EU members, the Bulgarian ambassador to the EU explained on Tuesday (11 May) to the EU ministers his country's decision to veto the start of neighbouring North Macedonia's accession negotiations.

Dimitar Tzantchev represented Bulgaria at the General Affairs Council, the EU27 ministerial format which decides EU enlargement-related issues, while on the same day President Rumen Radev appointed a caretaker Bulgarian government before snap elections on 11 July.

Bulgaria vetoed the decision to open EU membership talks with North Macedonia last November, a move which indirectly also affected Albania, another Western Balkans candidate which has advanced on its EU path in tandem with Skopje.

The move came as a surprise to many, as Bulgaria had been a strong promoter of EU enlargement to the Western Balkans, having organised a special summit during its Presidency of the Council of the EU in 2018.

But in the meantime Skopje failed to deliver on a bilateral treaty with Bulgaria from 2017, effectively blocking the work of a joint committee tasked to sort out the issues of "common history". In parallel, Sofia flagged a fresh wave of anti-Bulgarian hate speech in North Macedonia.

In 2019 the Bulgarian Parliament unanimously adopted a tough declaration warning Skopje that Sofia will not tolerate the distortion of historical events, documents and artefacts, as well as the role and views of personalities from Bulgarian history.

Several EU members, including Austria, have criticised the Bulgarian stance.

Speaking to the EU ministers, Tzantchev said that Bulgaria is "the last country needing to be convinced why the Western Balkans should one day become part of the EU".

"Unfortunately, we are facing a problem...

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