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New EU presidency to press Bulgaria on enlargement dispute

July 2, 2021 GMT

SKOPJE, North Macedonia (AP) — Slovenian President Borut Pahor said Friday he will travel to Bulgaria next week to try and resolve a dispute holding back European Union accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania.

Slovenia, a former Yugoslav republic, took over the EU’s rotating presidency on July 1 and Pahor described the accession process as a top priority of his nation’s presidency.

“It would be best if the EU decides, reasonably soon, to include all Western Balkan countries (in the full accession process) and to adopt its enlargement strategy accordingly,” Pahor told an international conference in North Macedonia’s lakeside town of Ohrid.

The dispute between North Macedonia and neighboring EU-member Bulgaria has held up the accession process for the landlocked Balkan country and Albania. They are at odds over the origin of North Macedonia’s language.

Senior U.S. officials have also called for a swift settlement of the dispute.

Balkan countries that have not yet joined the EU are at different stages of the membership process, with Serbia and Montenegro the most advanced.