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EU members to discuss Macedonia membership this month

North Macedonia's Prime Minister Zoran Zaev (L) is welcomed by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker at the European Commission in Brussels on June 4, 2019
North Macedonia's Prime Minister Zoran Zaev (L) is welcomed by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker at the European Commission in Brussels on June 4, 2019 AFP/File
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Brussels (AFP)

European Union member states will discuss North Macedonia's bid to join their ranks at talks in Luxembourg later this month, EU Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker said Tuesday.

Juncker, at a joint news conference with Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, admitted some capitals have doubts, but that they would meet on June 18 to discuss them.

"The Romanian presidency has put this issue on the agenda of the General Affairs Council in June for the first debate, I would say," Juncker told reporters.

"The intention of the Commission is to do everything to have a definite decision being taken in summer."

Zaev thanked Juncker for his support, and added: "We have finished all the tasks that we asked to do and we are fully ready to start negotiating our accession."

Some members, notably France and the Netherlands, are cautious about admitting new members too quickly.

But the EU executive says Skopje is ready for talks and has made "substantial progress in the fight against corruption and organised crime."

North Macedonia has also resolved a naming dispute with EU member Greece and signed a friendship pact with 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.

"I know that some member states have some concerns. I will do everything possible to try to convince them to follow this historical movement and I will defend North Macedonia whenever it is needed."

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