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Sofia has once again called on EU not to put off membership talks with Albania and North Macedonia

Photo: EPA/BGNES

At a conference, entitled “From Thessaloniki to Zagreb” and organized by the Greek Foreign Ministry in support of the Western Balkans' European perspective, Bulgarian Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva has warned that the new EC negotiation methodology should not delay the start of accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia. At the same time, the Bulgarian Minister pointed out that it was of great importance for the European integration of the countries in the region that signed neighborhood relations agreements were fulfilled completely, in order to show Brussels that all problematic issues they had with their neighboring countries have been resolved.

Speaking with the BNR about the Thessaloniki conference, journalist and well-known expert in regional policy, Kostadin Filipov, pointed out that Bulgaria's national interests should be safeguarded by keeping to the agreements signed and in particular the Neighborhood Friendship and Cooperation Agreement with North Macedonia . In this regard, Filipov recalled that the Joint Commission created between Sofia and Skopje under this agreement is currently not operational.

Asked if he felt optimistic about the European perspective of the Western Balkans, the journalist replied:

"I am optimistic about the European future of the Western Balkans, but it seems to me that the focus should be placed on Greece's attempt to regain its priority position as the country in Southeastern Europe that is most interested and most actively driving the process of EU integration of the Western Balkans."

Mr. Filipov believes that Greece is now attempting to return to the place it thought it had occupied since the beginning of the 21st century, which worries him:

"I am worried that even with the current Croatian Presidency and despite all good intentions aimed at achieving a concrete result at the upcoming meetings in late March in Brussels and in May in Zagreb, things will go under the shadow of Greek efforts to support Western Balkan countries on their way to becoming EU Members… We should see how Greece acts in order to consolidate its leadership in Southeast Europe in terms of European integration.”

"I will also give you an optimistic forecast," the analyst has told us. "Indeed, on March 26 and 27th, there will come another impetus for the EU integration of the Western Balkans, with Tirana and Skopje receiving some compensation for the failure last October as they are given an actual date to start negotiations. I cannot say what this date would be, but signals are coming from Paris that they accept the balance of the new methodology between French interests and the desire of most EU countries for enlargement to the Western Balkans."

At the meeting in Thessaloniki, European Commission officials confirmed that they are in favor of opening accession talks with the Republic of North Macedonia and the Republic of Albania and this would be the conclusion of the countries' annual progress reports, expected to be published next week.

Editor: Stoimen Pavlov

English: Alexander Markov


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