“Where is the date for the date (to start negotiations)? Reads graffiti in the center of North Macedonian capital, Skopje.
This is a pointed reference to the lack of progress regarding the country’s accession to the European Union.
The country – previously known as the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia – agreed to change its name in 2018 to settle a long dispute with its southern neighbor, Greece, which has vetoed membership negotiations for the EU.
Since changing its name to the Republic of North Macedonia, its membership has been blocked at the level of EU leaders and then by its eastern neighbor, Bulgaria.
Sofia challenged the existence of the country’s cultural and historical identity. The Bulgarian side claims that the history and language of North Macedonia is not separate or distinct from that of Bulgaria.
Obstacles to EU membership – the country obtained candidate status in 2005 – have sparked Euroscepticism, experts say.
“Unfortunately, skeptics of the EU and NATO are increasingly heard in our country,” said Ilija Dzugumanov, member of the Euro-Atlantic Council.
“We can see this from the last elections in North Macedonia, when these frustrations with the accession process were manifested by skeptical parties – the only winners in the last two elections.
Nikola Dimitrov, the country’s Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs, urged the EU to honor his words.
Dimitrov is known to many as a politician with a clearly pro-European orientation. He led the negotiations with Greece for the signing of the Prespa agreement.
“If the EU does not keep its promises on a deal that has been so widely and highly praised, what is the lesson for Belgrade and Pristina? Or the lesson for the problems that Bosnia and Herzegovina has been facing especially in recent days and weeks? ”Dimitrov told Euronews.
“If we want to solve the big problems in the Balkans, we need the EU to continue to be a ‘force for good’. And in our case, it is quite questionable – due to this lack of delivery – that the EU is indeed ‘pushing for the good’. “