Czechia and Slovakia block an important document for EU enlargement

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The Czech Republic and Slovakia have blocked an important document concerning the further enlargement of the European Union. The reason is the Bulgarian veto on the opening of accession talks with North Macedonia. According to the Czech Minister of Foreign Affairs Tomáš Petříček, the document could further complicate accession negotiations.
“I am sorry, but we had to block the EU Council Conclusions on Enlargement,” Slovak Foreign Minister Ivan Korčok said in a statement. “This document inadequately introduces sensitive historical issues into the agenda in relations between EU member states and candidate countries,” the Slovak minister said, adding that such an approach undermines the credibility of the enlargement process and motivation of candidate countries to meet tasks and accession criteria.
According to Petříček, the text also contains, among other things, passages that change history, which could be detrimental to the enlargement process in general.
Bulgaria blocked accession talks in mid-November because Northern Macedonia rejected its request to recognize that its national identity and language had Bulgarian roots. According to Sofia, its Balkan neighbor is also not complying with the friendship pact that the two countries signed in 2017, and an anti-Bulgarian campaign is underway in the Macedonian media.
There are also disputes about a minority living on Bulgarian territory. Northern Macedonia considers them Macedonian, which Bulgaria rejects. Sofia believes that Macedonian nationality and language were created in the 1940s under what was then Yugoslavia and that before 1920, most of the population in the area considered themselves Bulgarians.
Although Bulgaria agreed to open accession talks with Albania, the veto on Skopje also blocked the start of negotiations with Tirana.
“I will explain our procedure in-person to a Bulgarian colleague. We want the enlargement process to proceed further, not to get stuck in bilateral disputes,” added Czech Minister Petříček.
The situation is an unpleasant problem for EU diplomacy, given that Russia, China, and Turkey are also trying to strengthen their influence in the Western Balkans. Slow progress in developing relations with the EU could therefore lead to a neglect for the reforms demanded by Brussels for greater democracy and the strengthening of the rule of law, the DPA noted.
According to the DPA, the ambassadors of the Czech Republic and Slovakia approved the text of the conclusions on Wednesday and did not use the country’s right of veto until Thursday in the Council of Ministers. Both countries specifically criticized the fact that a reference to historical disputes with Northern Macedonia was included in the text on the issue of enlargement under pressure from Bulgaria.
Title image: Slovakia foreign minister Ivan Korcok talks to the media during a press conference after a meeting with his Cyprus’ counterpart Nikos Christodoulides at the foreign house in capital Nicosia, Cyprus, Monday, Nov. 23, 2020. Korcok is in Cyprus for official visit. (Katia Christodoulou Pool via AP)

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