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INTEGRATION Dimitrov: Official start of EU talks – either joint achievement or joint failure

Efforts are being made and activities are under way as regards holding the first joint intergovernmental conference with the EU as North Macedonia is preparing for a positive scenario, Deputy PM for European Affairs Nikola Dimitrov said Saturday.

Speaking at a news conference presenting his mandate letter, Dimitrov didn’t rule out the possibility of the intergovernmental conference not being organized in December as a result of Bulgaria’s objections.

“It cannot be ruled out. If Macedonian language is the reason, then I’m okay with it,” he said answering journalist questions. Any potential failure, Dimitrov stressed, will be a failure not only for the country, but also of the European image of the neighboring Bulgaria and of Europe itself and its main values.

The Deputy PM noted that diplomatic efforts were being made to settle the differences, adding: “The field is not unlimited.”

“Our right to self-determination in the 21st century and on this continent cannot be disputed. If Macedonian language becomes the obstacle to joining the EU, the adjective that is part of the name European Union will also become disputed, because you cannot be European if you interfere in the right of a nation to determine itself and to name the language it speaks. This is not the way to build a healthy friendship, based on mutual respect,” stressed Deputy PM Dimitrov.

At the moment, he said, we depend on the approval of every single country in the Union of every step along our EU integration path. “We will be reasonable, we will be wise, we will promote and preserve what’s ours and we’ll work on respect and understanding, but it’s very legitimate to ask for respect and understanding in return. We’ll see what happens.”

Commenting on criticism that the joint Macedonia-Bulgarian commission is unsuccessful, Dimitrov said he believed its work is productive, comparing it to similar commissions that have been working for decades.

He added that efforts were made to improve bilateral ties with Sofia soon, because ‘we’re running out of time.’

“We’re talking about weeks. On our part, we should elaborate our position and explain what’s at stake. Berlin is very ambitions the process to succeed, however, it doesn’t mean we have to stop trying to find an understanding with Bulgaria over the issues, but the identity and Macedonian language are not one of them,” stated the Deputy PM.

If everything goes to plan after the first intergovernmental conference, according to him, North Macedonia could open the first cluster of negotiations in late 2021.

“Firmly focused with clear priorities, the government during its four-year term can open close to 80 percent of the negotiations chapter and lay the foundations for the next government to close the negotiations, which would result in full-fledged membership in the EU,” Dimitrov said.

He called on all political and social stakeholders to be engaged in the process. “We offer and opportunity and cooperation with the opposition all the time, not only as part of the parliamentary bodies. The same goes for the civil society, NGOs, the private sector, etc,” Deputy PM Dimitrov told the news conference.

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