Prime Minister Zoran Zaev expressed hope that Macedonia will remain coupled with Albania when it comes to EU accession and that both countries will be allowed to advance in the process. The statement comes as he faces another major foreign policy humiliation – a year ago many in Macedonia were asking to be decoupled from Albania so that the country could advance faster, but now we face seeing Albania overtake Macedonia. Macedonia remains blocked by Bulgaria which demands that Zaev delivers on the promises he made in 2017 and greatly rewrites the Macedonian historic narrative and redefines the Macedonian national identity.

Meanwhile, Albania seems on the verge of overcoming the resistance it faces, because of its rule of law defects, from countries like the Netherlands. It is now possible that Albania will be allowed to open its accession talks in June, while Macedonia remains stuck. This does not sit well with Zaev, who promised the nation that his policy of appeasement of its neighbors will lead to fast progress in the EU accession.

If somebody deserves this, if somebody waited the longest possible time, if somebody showed European manners and values and achieved serious bilateral treaties and did 100 percent of the reforms that are required and finally in March 2020 we had 100 percent valorization of our values from all 27 EU member states, Zaev said in a typical rambling response after being vaccinated with the Sinopharm vaccine in Skopje. “Now we are working toward the next step in holding an inter-governmental conference and I believe that Europe owes us that much and will make that step. Albania is our neighbor and I want us to walk together and help each other in this process”.

Bulgaria is currently in a political crisis and even its parties wanted to allow Macedonia to advance, it’s unlikely negotiations can be held and a legitimate decision made. The country will hold early elections in July, after the vote in April ended with a divided Parliament with no party able to form a Government. Zaev insisted that it is still possible to hold negotiations with the caretaker Government that will rule Bulgaria until the elections, even though this is not usually the case.

There is still a President in Bulgaria and a President in Macedonia. I suppose their Government functions with full mandate as does ours. We are talking about an issue that is negotiated at the European and bilateral level. If they are not ready to approve the bilateral portion, we could resume talks later, when they have a political Government. But at the moment we can resolve the European portion of the issue, Zaev insisted.