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N. Macedonia lawmakers pass deal to unblock path to EU talks

Lawmakers in North Macedonia on Saturday passed a French-brokered deal aimed at settling disputes with Bulgaria and clearing the way for overdue European Union membership talks.

The deal passed with 68 votes in the 120-seat parliament. Opposition lawmakers noisily protested before the vote and left the debating chamber as it was about to start. The remaining ones applauded the adoption of the deal holding up North Macedonian and EU flags.

BREAKING:

With 68 votes out of 120, the North Macedonian Parliament has passed a French-backed compromise proposal that will remove the Bulgarian veto on EU membership talks for North Macedonia.

Today’s vote puts both North Macedonia & Albania on path to become EU member states pic.twitter.com/pBUaSvMO32

— Visegrád 24 (@visegrad24) July 16, 2022
The deal proposes that North Macedonia’s constitution be amended to recognise a Bulgarian minority, while other outstanding issues would be discussed between Skopje and Sofia.

In exchange, Bulgaria will allow its neighbour to start membership talks with the EU, which it had vetoed up until last month.

However, the proposal does not require EU member Bulgaria to recognise the Macedonian language.

Opponents of the deal, including the opposition VMRE-DPMNE party bloc, say the deal endangers the country’s language and identity.

Macedonia 🇲🇰 Anti EU Protests 💣 Stunning Scenes as The People gather in SKOPJE to protest against Proposals to join the EU 🇪🇺…The World is on Fire 💣🔥👊 pic.twitter.com/A5vfKzWhBj

— 𝙍𝙄𝙎𝙀𝙈𝙀𝙇𝘽𝙊𝙐𝙍𝙉𝙀 (@risemelbourne) July 10, 2022
EU and US react
“Congratulations to North Macedonia on the vote that now paves the way for opening the accession negotiations rapidly.” Ursula von der Leyen, head of the European Commission, wrote on social media.

🇲🇰 Congratulations to North Macedonia on the vote that now paves the way for opening the accession negotiations rapidly.

It was a historic opportunity.

And you seized it.

A big step on your path towards a European future. Your future.

— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) July 16, 2022
The US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also referred to the matter on social media. “The United States welcomes North Macedonia’s parliamentary vote to advance on its EU path, in line with the values and aspirations of its citizens,” he wrote.

The United States welcomes North Macedonia’s parliamentary vote to advance on its EU path, in line with the values and aspirations of its citizens. This is a critical moment for Europe. We support North Macedonia and Albania as they move forward in the EU accession process.

— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) July 16, 2022
North Macedonia, formerly part of Yugoslavia, has been an EU candidate for 17 years and also changed its official name from Macedonia to resolve a dispute with Greece, which has a province of the same name.


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