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EU States To Discuss North Macedonia Membership On June 18

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker (right) and North Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev in Brussels on June 4
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker (right) and North Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev in Brussels on June 4

BRUSSELS -- North Macedonia’s bid to join the EU will be discussed by member states at their meeting in Luxembourg later this month, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said.

"The Romanian presidency has put this issue on the agenda of the General Affairs Council for the first debate [on June 18]," Juncker said on June 4 during a joint news conference in Brussels with North Macedonia Prime Minister Zoran Zaev.

The announcement comes days after the European Commission recommended that EU accession talks with North Macedonia and fellow Balkan nation Albania begin as soon as possible, saying the two countries have "delivered on reforms."

EU diplomats have told RFE/RL, however, that deep divisions remain among EU states over both countries' entry.

"The intention of the commission is to do everything to have a definite decision being taken in summer," Juncker said.

The commission's head said that some EU members remain wary of admitting new states to the 28-member bloc until they raise government and justice standards up to Western levels and crack down on corruption.

But he said the EU executive believes that Skopje is ready for talks and has made "substantial progress in the fight against corruption and organized crime."

Zaev acknowledged that some EU states are still hesitant on North Macedonian membership, but he said, "We have finished all the tasks that we were asked to do and we are fully ready to start negotiating our accession."

North Macedonia's path to membership in both the EU and NATO was cleared after Skopje reached agreement with Greece over the former Yugoslav republic’s official name.

Athens had opposed the use of the moniker "Macedonia," asserting that it indicated territorial ambitions over Greece’s province of the same name, and Skopje agreed to change its name to North Macedonia.

The Western Balkan nation of some 2.1 million people also recently agreed to a friendship pact with neighboring Bulgaria.

"I said clearly back in 2018 that no country will join the European Union unless it has solved all its bilateral disputes. North Macedonia has heeded the call," Juncker said.

Juncker's comments on EU membership came a day after NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said during a visit to Skopje that the Western military alliance was "ready to welcome" the country as its 30th member.

The country’s entry protocol has been approved and awaits only the expected ratification by the final 15 of NATO's 29 members.

With reporting by Rikard Jozwiak in Brussels, AFP, and AP