EU begins accession talks with Skopje and Tirana
The path is clear for North Macedonia and Albania to begin EU accession negotiations. Enlargement Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi confirmed on Tuesday that negotiations would begin after the North Macedonian parliament approved an EU proposal for a compromise to end the country's dispute with Bulgaria. Commentators see a new dynamic at work in the process.
The desire for unity
Russia will have a harder time stirring up nationalists against EU enlargement now, comments journalist Ovidiu Nahoi on Radio France Internationale:
“Back in the day, football clubs were right at the front of the demonstrations in Skopje, Athens and Thessaloniki, and journalistic research has shown that both camps - seemingly in opposition to each other - were fuelled by the same source: Russia. Things are probably not much different today. Moscow is heavily involved in the Western Balkans and is trying to exploit the disappointment in the region over the lack of progress towards EU accession. But Russia's attack on Ukraine has given new momentum to EU enlargement. A factor that the Kremlin didn't take into account.”
North Macedonia could overtake Serbia
As long as they don't put any obstacles in the way, the North Macedonians are all set, Sega explains:
“Bulgaria harbours no ill feelings towards either Serbia or North Macedonia. We want to have them in the EU and to open the borders. The negotiating framework is now in place whether they want it or not. If they are willing to fulfill the criteria, they are heartily welcome. This is why no deadlines have been set. If the North Macedonians are clever about things, they could overtake the Serbians on the road to the EU. Because unlike the Serbians they are only creating false problems with one EU country. And if they get Bulgaria on their side, that will propel them into the overtaking lane.”