North Macedonian deputy PM expects green light from European Council in March



Bujar Osmani (L), Macedonia's Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs, and Nikola Dimitrov (R), Foreign Minister of Macedonia, give a conference following the Stabilisation and Association Council in Brussels on July 18, 2017. (Photo by Aurore Belot / AFP)
Aurore Belot / AFP

Bujar Osmani (left), Macedonia's Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs, and Nikola Dimitrov (right), Foreign Minister of Macedonia

North Macedonian Deputy Prime Minister Bujar Osmani said in Zagreb on Thursday that Skopje was committed to its EU membership bid and expected the European Council to make a positive decision on the launching of accession talks with North Macedonia in March.

Osmani and North Macedonian Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov visited Zagreb the day after the European Commission announced a new, stricter methodology for EU enlargement.

Dimitrov described the proposed methodology as very good, expressing hope, just like Osmani, that the European Council would approve the launching of accession talks with his country in March.

"There are a number of benefits for those who want to implement reforms, and the methodology will be difficult and complex for those who do not implement them," said Dimitrov.

He added that as a country that had waited for long, North Macedonia did not want to be a bad student or a country going backwards.

In October 2019 France blocked the opening of accession talks with Skopje and Tirana. North Macedonia has been a candidate since 2005 and it ended its long-lasting dispute with Greece and changed its name for the sake of its EU membership bid.

Apart from the new methodology, the EC will publish by the end of the month a report on North Macedonia and Albania's progress, which should facilitate the adoption of the decision on the launching of accession talks by the Council of the EU.

Most EU countries and leaders of European institutions have called the blockade of the Western Balkan countries a historic mistake, one of the reasons being the growing influence of China and Russia in the Balkans.

Osmani, however, repeated that there was no alternative to EU membership for his country and that it remained committed to joining the 27-member bloc.

He thanked Croatia for its "sincere and unequivocal support on the journey to the EU".

Dimitrov believes that the EU cannot afford the luxury of failing to invest in and support the Western Balkans and that the EU summit, to take place in Zagreb in May, would be successful.

Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Grlic Radman said he expected the Zagreb summit to give clear messages regarding EU enlargement in the next ten years.

Osmani warned that as a global player the EU cannot leave out the Western Balkans and that accession of Western Balkan countries was in "the mutual political, economic and security interest."

"North Macedonia is a part of Europe in terms of geography, history and culture and it should be part of the EU," said Osmani.

Grlic Radman called for the launching of accession talks with North Macedonia without further delay, stressing that Croatia would continue sharing its knowledge and experience from its own accession process with North Macedonia.