Bulgaria’s parliament voted on Friday to lift its veto on the opening of negotiations for North Macedonia’s membership of the European Union, paving the way for the bloc to press ahead with expansion plans in the Balkans Westerners.
North Macedonia has held EU candidate status for 17 years and has been given the green light to start accession negotiations in 2020.
Bulgaria has previously insisted that North Macedonia formally recognize that its language has Bulgarian roots, mention a Bulgarian minority in its constitution and stamp out allegedly anti-Bulgarian rhetoric. North Macedonia said its identity and language were not open for discussion and that the solution should be based on European values.
France, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency, made last-ditch efforts this week to resolve an ethnic and cultural dispute, apparently with some success.
The decision of the Bulgarian parliament was adopted with 170 votes for, 37 against and 21 abstentions, according to Vice President Atanas Atanasov.
It comes just a day after Ukraine and Moldova were both granted EU candidate status, partly in response to Russian aggression in Ukraine.