Bulgaria blocks EU accession talks with North Macedonia

FILE PHOTO: Bulgarian Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva speaks to the media in Sofia, Bulgaria, January 24, 2020. REUTERS/Dimitar Kyosemarliev/File Photo

SOFIA (Reuters) – Bulgaria has refused to approve the European Union’s negotiation framework for North Macedonia, effectively blocking the official start of accession talks with its smaller Balkan neighbour, its foreign minister said on Tuesday.

Ekaterina Zaharieva said Sofia could not back for now the start of long-delayed accession negotiations between the 27-member block and Skopje due to open disputes over history and language.

“Bulgaria, at this stage, cannot back the draft of the negotiation framework with the Republic of North Macedonia and the holding of the first intergovernmental conference,” Zaharieva said after EU ministers discussed the subject in an online meeting.

The EU agreed in March that North Macedonia and Albania can start talks for membership. The official launch of the accession talks with the two Balkan countries was expected to take place at an intergovernmental conference in December.

Zaharieva said Bulgaria has approved the negotiation framework for Albania.

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