Bulgarian government ousted for cracking down on EU enlargement hopes

The overthrow of Bulgaria’s government in a vote of no confidence plunged the country into fresh political turmoil and dashed hopes that it could help jump-start the stalled process of European Union expansion into the Western Balkans.

Bulgarian MPs voted 123 to 116 to oust Prime Minister Kiril Petkov, a reformist who promised to fight corruption and take a tough stance on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Petkov has been prime minister for six months.

Petkov was voted down over plans to drop Bulgaria’s veto over the start of EU accession talks with North Macedonia and over budget differences. The county may now be gearing up for its fourth election since last April.

The no-confidence vote was a blow to EU leaders, who meet in Brussels on Thursday to try to revive the enlargement process in the Western Balkans.

Earlier on Wednesday, Bulgaria’s main opposition party said it would support the removal of the country’s veto over North Macedonia’s EU talks. Former Bulgarian prime minister Boyko Borisov said his centre-right GERB party would vote in favour despite first exercising a veto over a dispute over the interpretation of Balkan history in Skopje three years ago.

Despite the abrupt turnaround, the GERB also continued to take measures of no confidence in the government. Petkov’s allies suspect that Borisov’s change of North Macedonia’s EU membership — which remains unpopular in Bulgaria — is a political trap.

European officials worry that continued delays in EU enlargement could create political instability in the Western Balkans and lead to disillusionment with the bloc. Brussels Support Russia can take advantage of the western orientation of the region. Petkov had backed EU sanctions on Moscow and fired his defense minister after refusing to describe the Russian invasion as a “war.”

Cancellation of negotiating veto North Macedonia Negotiations with Albania will also begin. Membership applications from both countries have been linked by the EU. The former has been an EU candidate since 2005, and despite meeting many of the bloc’s membership requirements, there has been no progress in accession talks, mainly due to objections expressed against the former Yugoslav Republic’s national identity first from Greece and Bulgaria .

The EU’s broader stance on eastern expansion has shifted since Putin began a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February, following years of resistance to potential new members.EU will agree to formalize Ukraine and Moldova candidate country This week, in addition to new efforts to unwind stalled processes in the Western Balkans.

Petkov ready to strike deal with Skopje when one party in his coalition begins talks quit to protest the issue Earlier this month, he did not make the majority.

Petkov could try to form a new majority. If he fails (which seems likely), then the GERB could try, although other parties still see it as toxic due to widespread corruption when it came to power.

Meanwhile, applications from North Macedonia will remain frozen.

After earlier raising hopes of a potential breakthrough, North Macedonia, Albania and Serbia said they would join EU leaders at a summit in Brussels on Thursday. They had threatened not to attend because of Bulgaria’s position.

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