The EU accession process should be based on principles, and Macedonia has made enough reforms to justify holding the first intergovernmental conference. The bilateral dispute with Bulgaria should be resolved outside the accession process, Matthew Palmer, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, told VOA.

Palmer hopes that an agreement will be reached to hold the first intergovernmental conference with Macedonia during the German presidency.

Macedonia has done enough to qualify for the intergovernmental conference, and I think the majority of EU members are clear on that. We will continue to work with our European partners to make that happen. We will do everything we can to prepare the ground, and we will continue to publicly demonstrate our strong support for moving Macedonia towards EU membership, Palmer said.

Asked whether Bulgaria’s demands reflect European values, and whether the United States condemns such behavior, Palmer said:

We understand that there are certain important issues related to history, identity and language that need to be resolved between Bulgaria and Macedonia as neighbors, allies and partners. Regarding the EU accession process, we want to see it move forward, without including bilateral issues. We would like to see bilateral issues resolved through bilateral channels, he said.

According to Palmer, the cost of joining the EU is clear and explained on about 80,000 pages of rules and regulations.

It is a process based on standards. We want to see Macedonia continue with the reforms that have opened the door to Europe. As I said, there are bilateral issues that can and should be resolved bilaterally. The accession process to the EU should depend on addressing the necessary reforms, which will ensure Macedonia to be an EU member, said Palmer when asked if the cost of joining the EU should be erasing history.

According to him, in order to maintain European credibility in the country, the EU should show that progress in reforms will be reflected in the opening of the accession process.

At this moment, the next step for Macedonia is to hold the intergovernmental conference, and that is something that Macedonia clearly deserved through reforms, says Palmer.

He did not want to predict what the outcome of next week’s meeting would be, but stressed that the United States would remain partners with Macedonia and Albania throughout the process.

Stay committed to reforms, demonstrate seriousness and purpose, and keep moving forward, Palmer said.