Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz has called for the immediate start of EU accession negotiations with North Macedonia. “The accession negotiations that were firmly promised two years ago must begin now. In any case, I will campaign for it,” said the SPD politician on Saturday after talks with North Macedonia’s Prime Minister Dimitar Kovacevski in Skopje. “My wish: it should work now.”

He reiterated that Germany is serious about integrating the Western Balkan states into the European Union. “This is especially true for North Macedonia. The EU is particularly committed to North Macedonia, which has met all the requirements for the start of accession negotiations.” Scholz praised the “political force” that made it possible for the country to reach an understanding with Greece. “That’s why we should still succeed in the rest of the tasks.”

Almost 20 years ago, the six countries of the Western Balkans were given the prospect of joining the EU. “As the European Union, we also have an obligation to implement and realize the credibility of our own promises,” said the Chancellor.

Kovacevski made it clear that his country hoped the EU summit in June would confirm the start of accession negotiations. “We expect a step that we deserve.” North Macedonia has made great efforts and reformed the administration and the judiciary. “Chancellor Scholz’s visit is a strong signal that Berlin recognizes that we meet the criteria for starting accession negotiations.”

Scholz also acknowledged that the country’s citizens and government had “worked very hard” to clear the way for accession negotiations. Now the harvest should be due for these efforts.

Scholz encouraged the country to continue along the reform path it had taken. At the same time, he acknowledged that North Macedonia fully supports the EU positions and sanctions against Russia. “This is further evidence of how firmly North Macedonia stands on European values ​​and is willing to stand up for them.”

North Macedonia has been an EU accession candidate for 17 years. In July 2020, the EU Commission basically gave the green light for concrete negotiations. However, these are blocked by Bulgaria because of a dispute over historiography and the rights of the Bulgarian minority in North Macedonia.

Kovacevski said in the press conference with Scholz: “We can see that there is political turbulence in Bulgaria, we have no influence on it, we cannot comment on it or interpret it.” However, it is obvious that this question has become a domestic political question in the neighboring country and “often one-sidedly instrumentalized and politicized”.