By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — In a joint statement, the U.S. secretary of state and the European Union’s foreign policy chief have expressed support for North Macedonia’s bid to begin EU accession talks.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken and the EU’s Josep Borrell on July 9 said that, in the face of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, advancing the path to EU membership for North Macedonia, along with that of Albania, is important to all of Europe.
“At this critical moment in European history, marked by the unjustifiable aggression carried out by Russia against Ukraine, advancing Albania and North Macedonia’s EU path is key to strengthening the cohesion and resilience of the entire European continent,” they said.
“Guided by common values and EU standards and benchmarks, both countries are ready to take the next step toward EU membership,” it added.
The two also offered support for a French-initiated compromise proposal aimed at ending EU member Bulgaria’s veto of North Macedonia’s bid to enter the bloc.
Bulgaria has endorsed the proposal, which could lead to mentioning the Bulgarian minority in the preamble to North Macedonia’s constitution, among other things.
Critics in North Macedonia, including the leading opposition party, have attacked the proposal as a national “betrayal” that threatens to “Bulgarianize” their country, which declared its independence from the former Yugoslavia in 1991 and has been an EU candidate for 16 years.
“We welcome a compromise proposal which takes into account the interests and concerns of both North Macedonia and Bulgaria based on mutual respect, trust, and understanding,” the Blinken-Borrell statement said.
“The sovereign decision of the parliament of North Macedonia will be important to move forward. This spirit of constructive compromise on which European integration is built should continue to inspire all those involved in this historic process,” it added.
Washington and Brussels have sought to integrate the small nations of the Western Balkans into Europe to help blunt Moscow’s influence in the region.