North Macedonia disappointed over setback at EU talks

SKOPJE, North Macedonia (AP) — The prime minister of North Macedonia expressed his nation’s disappointment Wednesday after neighbor Bulgaria refused to withdraw a veto on accession talks with the European Union over a language dispute.

“It’s Europe’s problem now. It failed to stop one country blocking the enlargement process because of a bilateral issue,” Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said at a meeting with Edi Rama, his counterpart from Albania — another Balkan neighbor.

EU-member Bulgaria wants North Macedonia to formally recognize that its language has Bulgarian roots and to end allegedly anti-Bulgarian rhetoric.

Skopje says its identity and language are not open to discussion.

EU foreign ministers discussed the issue Tuesday at a meeting in Luxembourg but failed to break the deadlock. The spat could also hurt Albania’s ambitions to join the bloc. While not directly related, talks with the two nations have been held in parallel.

A commission of historians from North Macedonia and Bulgaria has been set up to try and resolve the standoff, but so far has failed to reach common ground.

The impasse follows a decades-long dispute between the former Yugoslav republic and southern neighbor Greece which was resolved in 2018 when it agreed to change its name from Macedonia to North Macedonia.

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