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Balkan Developments

North Macedonia dismisses special envoy for Bulgaria

Vlado Buckovski

A meeting of the Consultative Council on National Security was convened by President Rumen Radev in Sofia on 10 January to discuss this country’s position on the European integration of North Macedonia. The participants in the meeting agreed that giving consent for the launch of North Macedonia’s EU accession negotiations cannot be bound by deadlines but depends on the attainment of real results, including regarding the rights of Macedonian Bulgarians.

A day later, as the new government in Skopje was about to assume office, the special envoy for Bulgaria Vlado Buckovski was dismissed. The former prime minister of Macedonia (2004-2006) was appointed to the post at the end of 2020 because there was no Macedonian ambassador in Sofia. In an interview with Telma TV, Buckovski stated that from now on the negotiations would be conducted by five working groups between the two foreign ministries – a format initially proposed by Bulgaria’s Prime Minister Kiril Petkov. Bulgarian MEP Ilhan Kyuchyuk, European Parliament rapporteur for North Macedonia, stated for the BNR, that the government in Skopje was likely to find more direct communication with the Bulgarian authorities.

USA supports the Open Balkans initiative, but on condition

Gabriel Escobar

The Open Balkans cannot be effective without the participation of all the countries of the region, Gabriel Escobar, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State overseeing policy towards the countries of the Western Balkans stated. In an interview for the Voice of America he appealed to the leaders of the region to focus on multi-ethnic reconciliation, and named the two conditions on which the US is ready to support the initiative – that the Berlin standards set by the European Union be met, and second, that it is open to all countries of the region, including Kosovo.

Novi Sad is European Capital of Culture, 2022

The town of Novi Sad, Serbia, is now European Capital of Culture, alongside Kaunas, Lithuania and Esch-sur-Alzette, Luxembourg. “No town deserves this title more, no town has a bigger potential than Novi Sad of flying high the flag of youth and culture,” Serbia’s Prime Minister Ana Brnabic said at the handover ceremony, held in the building of Novi Sad’s National Theatre. Serbia’s second biggest city, and capital of Vojvodina Novi Sad, which lies on both banks of the River Danube, was founded in 1694.

Authorities in Greece extend all Covid restrictions

The authorities in Greece extended by one week – until 24 January – all restrictions imposed because of the coronavirus pandemic. The requirement for a negative test, even for vaccinated passengers, remains in place for entry into Greece. A large percentage of the daily tests in schools continue to return positive. More than 5,000 schoolteachers are either sick or under quarantine.

Because Omicron is highly transmissible, intensive care wards are filled to capacity and doctors have been on the job for more than two months with never a break, BNR’s correspondent Katya Peeva reports.

MEPs accuse Enlargement Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi of colluding with Milorad Dodik for breaking up Bosnia and Herzegovina

Oliver Varhelyi

The European Commissioner for Enlargement Oliver Varhelyi is openly colluding with Milorad Dodik in breaking up Bosnia and Herzegovina, reads an open letter by a group of MEPs, written at the initiative of Katalin Cseh from Renew Europe, BNR’s correspondent in Brussels Angelina Piskova reports. The authors of the letter cite a leaked document, signed by Johann Sattler, head of the delegation of the EU in Bosnia and Herzegovina, in which he suggests that Varhelyi and Dodik agreed regarding the date of a special session of the Republika Srpska National Assembly in November, and that a 6-month moratorium to pass legislation on the unilateral withdrawal from state institutions would be announced. This means the formation of a separate army, judicial and tax system of Republika Srpska. The European Commission confirmed it had received the letter and would answer it. 

Compiled by Miglena Ivanova

Photos: telma.com.mk, Skype, Twitter, BGNES

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