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Smaller Pro-EU Parties Surge in European Elections; Centrists Lose Seats

Smaller European parties saw a surge of support in continent-wide elections for the European Parliament in what politicians and analysts agree will likely be seen as the most consequential since 1979, when European Union voters first began casting ballots for the bloc’s legislature.

Early results Sunday suggested the 751-seat parliament will be more fragmented than ever before. Smaller parties, both euroskeptic and pro-EU ones, fared well at the expense of their more established and bigger center-right and center-left rivals.

Pro-EU Liberals and Greens will hold the balance of power in the new parliament, which will sit for five years. Philippe Lamberts, leader of the Greens group, said: “To make a stable majority in this parliament, the Greens are now indispensable.”

The rise of new parties appears to have smashed the duopoly of control of the parliament traditionally enjoyed by the center-right European People’s Party (EPP) and the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D).

National populist parties

As the results came in, nationalist populists were on course to win just under a quarter of the seats in the parliament, but they had set their sights on snatching a third of them. In France, President Emmanuel Macron’s La Republique En Marche was defeated, coming in second to Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally. Le Pen welcomed the win, saying it had delivered a serious blow to the authority of the French president.

In Italy, too, nationalist populists led by Matteo Salvini, the deputy prime minister, made important gains. And eurosceptic hard-right parties topped the polls in Britain, Poland and Hungary.

But the bigger takeaway from the election was how well pro-EU Greens and Liberals did. In several countries Green parties saw their support jump from five years ago. In Germany, the Greens made major gains at the expense of country’s left-wing Social Democrats, making a historic breakthrough by securing more than 20% of the vote.

Carsten Schneider, a German Social Democrats lawmaker, acknowledged it was a “bitter result, a defeat for us.”

“I think the main issue was climate change and we didn’t succeed in putting that front and center, alongside the big social issues,” he added.

In Ireland, too, Greens were celebrating, clinching three of Ireland’s 13 seats. The sudden crest in support for the Greens comes amid rising anxiety across Europe over the impact of climate change and biodiversity loss.

Irish Prime Minister Leo Eric Varadkar tweeted: “I want to congratulate the Greens on a very good election. It’s a very clear message from the public that they want us to do more on climate action — and we’ve got that message.”

Voters in 21 countries went to the polls Sunday. In seven other nations, including Britain, voters cast their ballots last week with the results being held back until all countries had completed the balloting.

Bloc gaining power

The European Parliament has become more powerful in recent years — for much of its existence it was just a talking shop (an unproductive bureaucratic agency). Now it helps pick the president of the European Commission and contributes to the shaping of trade and digital regulations. Seats are allocated under a form of proportional representation.

For years, the center-right EPP and the center-left S&D, both pro-EU parties, have together commanded an absolute majority in the parliament and its leaders have more often than not been able to settle disagreements in behind-the-scenes meetings.

In Britain, in an election that wasn’t meant to have been — the country was due to have left the EU by now — the newly formed Brexit Party of Nigel Farage trounced both of Britain’s two main established parties, the Conservatives and Labour, signaling it will likely be a threat to the pair in a general election, which many observers think will have to be called this year.

Both the Conservatives and Labour had been braced for a backlash from voters over Brexit, with the Brexit Party and pro-EU Liberal Democrats expected to do well. The predictions turned out to be right, with the ruling Conservatives recording their worst election performance in their history. The turnout in Britain was higher than previous European polls — as it was across all of the bloc where it averaged 50%, the highest rate since 1994.

British Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan blamed British Prime Minister Theresa May’s reluctance to resign from office for the defeat. On Twitter, he said: “Had the PM announced her resignation even 24 hours earlier, something might have been salvaged.”

Still a strong pro-EU majority

The reduction in the power of establishment parties could potentially make it more difficult for the bloc to agree on collective action when it comes to economic, trade and foreign policies, but EU officials were breathing a sigh of relief Sunday night when it became clear there would still be a strong pro-EU majority in the parliament.

The center-right EPP will likely hold on to 173 seats in the EU parliament, down from 221 in 2014, while the Socialist group will fall from 191 to 147 seats. The Liberals were expected to rise from 67 seats to more than 100; the Greens increased from 50 to 71.

Socialists looked set to top the poll in Spain. And traditional left parties fared better than had been predicted in Italy and the Netherlands.

 

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Smaller Pro-EU Parties Surge in European Elections; Centrists Lose Seats

Smaller European parties saw a surge of support in continent-wide elections for the European Parliament in what politicians and analysts agree will likely be seen as the most consequential since 1979, when European Union voters first began casting ballots for the bloc’s legislature.

Early results Sunday suggested the 751-seat parliament will be more fragmented than ever before. Smaller parties, both euroskeptic and pro-EU ones, fared well at the expense of their more established and bigger center-right and center-left rivals.

Pro-EU Liberals and Greens will hold the balance of power in the new parliament, which will sit for five years. Philippe Lamberts, leader of the Greens group, said: “To make a stable majority in this parliament, the Greens are now indispensable.”

The rise of new parties appears to have smashed the duopoly of control of the parliament traditionally enjoyed by the center-right European People’s Party (EPP) and the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D).

National populist parties

As the results came in, nationalist populists were on course to win just under a quarter of the seats in the parliament, but they had set their sights on snatching a third of them. In France, President Emmanuel Macron’s La Republique En Marche was defeated, coming in second to Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally. Le Pen welcomed the win, saying it had delivered a serious blow to the authority of the French president.

In Italy, too, nationalist populists led by Matteo Salvini, the deputy prime minister, made important gains. And eurosceptic hard-right parties topped the polls in Britain, Poland and Hungary.

But the bigger takeaway from the election was how well pro-EU Greens and Liberals did. In several countries Green parties saw their support jump from five years ago. In Germany, the Greens made major gains at the expense of country’s left-wing Social Democrats, making a historic breakthrough by securing more than 20% of the vote.

Carsten Schneider, a German Social Democrats lawmaker, acknowledged it was a “bitter result, a defeat for us.”

“I think the main issue was climate change and we didn’t succeed in putting that front and center, alongside the big social issues,” he added.

In Ireland, too, Greens were celebrating, clinching three of Ireland’s 13 seats. The sudden crest in support for the Greens comes amid rising anxiety across Europe over the impact of climate change and biodiversity loss.

Irish Prime Minister Leo Eric Varadkar tweeted: “I want to congratulate the Greens on a very good election. It’s a very clear message from the public that they want us to do more on climate action — and we’ve got that message.”

Voters in 21 countries went to the polls Sunday. In seven other nations, including Britain, voters cast their ballots last week with the results being held back until all countries had completed the balloting.

Bloc gaining power

The European Parliament has become more powerful in recent years — for much of its existence it was just a talking shop (an unproductive bureaucratic agency). Now it helps pick the president of the European Commission and contributes to the shaping of trade and digital regulations. Seats are allocated under a form of proportional representation.

For years, the center-right EPP and the center-left S&D, both pro-EU parties, have together commanded an absolute majority in the parliament and its leaders have more often than not been able to settle disagreements in behind-the-scenes meetings.

In Britain, in an election that wasn’t meant to have been — the country was due to have left the EU by now — the newly formed Brexit Party of Nigel Farage trounced both of Britain’s two main established parties, the Conservatives and Labour, signaling it will likely be a threat to the pair in a general election, which many observers think will have to be called this year.

Both the Conservatives and Labour had been braced for a backlash from voters over Brexit, with the Brexit Party and pro-EU Liberal Democrats expected to do well. The predictions turned out to be right, with the ruling Conservatives recording their worst election performance in their history. The turnout in Britain was higher than previous European polls — as it was across all of the bloc where it averaged 50%, the highest rate since 1994.

British Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan blamed British Prime Minister Theresa May’s reluctance to resign from office for the defeat. On Twitter, he said: “Had the PM announced her resignation even 24 hours earlier, something might have been salvaged.”

Still a strong pro-EU majority

The reduction in the power of establishment parties could potentially make it more difficult for the bloc to agree on collective action when it comes to economic, trade and foreign policies, but EU officials were breathing a sigh of relief Sunday night when it became clear there would still be a strong pro-EU majority in the parliament.

The center-right EPP will likely hold on to 173 seats in the EU parliament, down from 221 in 2014, while the Socialist group will fall from 191 to 147 seats. The Liberals were expected to rise from 67 seats to more than 100; the Greens increased from 50 to 71.

Socialists looked set to top the poll in Spain. And traditional left parties fared better than had been predicted in Italy and the Netherlands.

 

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Venezuelan Negotiators Return to Norway for Talks

Representatives of the Venezuelan government and opposition have returned to Norway for talks aimed at resolving the political crisis in the South American country, the Norwegian government said Saturday.

Norway said it will mediate discussions next week in Oslo, in an indication that the negotiation track is gaining momentum after months of escalating tension between Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and Juan Guaido, the U.S.-backed opposition leader.

The negotiators

Top Maduro aide Jorge Rodriguez and Hector Rodriguez, the governor of Miranda state, both of whom were in Oslo earlier this month for an earlier round of exploratory talks, will once again lead the government delegation. They will be joined this time by Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza, said Maduro, who thanked Norway for promoting “peace and stability” in Venezuela through the mediation effort.

Larry Devoe, the government’s top human rights official, is also a delegate member, said a Venezuelan official who was not authorized to discuss the talks and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The opposition delegation is being led by Stalin Gonzalez, a senior member of the opposition-controlled congress, former Caracas area Mayor Gerardo Blyde and former Transport Minister Fernando Martinez Mottola, according to an opposition statement. They will be joined by Vicente Diaz, a supporter of past negotiations with the government who previously served on the nation’s electoral council.

Both delegations traveled Saturday for the meetings, according to officials.

Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soreide praised both sides for their involvement.

Representatives of Venezuela’s political factions traveled to the European country earlier this month for talks, but it had been unclear if they would continue to engage with one another amid increased tensions over the opposition’s call for a military uprising April 30.

The opposition had previously ruled out talks, accusing Maduro of using negotiations between 2016 and 2018 to play for time, and has demanded Maduro’s resignation and early elections. Maduro, in turn, alleges the opposition tried to seize power by force.

The U.S. State Department noted the arrests of key opposition figures in Venezuela and said the only thing to negotiate with Maduro is “the conditions of his departure” from office.

“We hope the talks in Oslo will focus on that objective, and if they do, we hope progress will be possible,” spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said.

Talks reflect stalemate

The diplomatic effort reflects recognition in Venezuela that neither side has been able to prevail in the struggle for power, leaving the country in a state of political paralysis after years of hyperinflation and shortages of food and medicine. Several million Venezuelans have left the country, creating Latin America’s biggest migration crisis.

The United States and more than 50 other countries support Guaido’s claim to be Venezuela’s rightful leader. The U.S. has imposed oil sanctions to try to force out Maduro, whose key allies are Cuba, Russia and China.

Norway has a long, successful history of foreign mediation: The country hosted peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians in September 1993 and Maoist rebels and the government in the Philippines in 2011. The government also brokered a 2002 cease-fire between Sri Lankan government and Tamil Tiger rebel negotiators. Seven years ago, mediators from the Colombian government and left-wing FARC rebels held their first direct talks in a decade in Norway.

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Venezuelan Negotiators Return to Norway for Talks

Representatives of the Venezuelan government and opposition have returned to Norway for talks aimed at resolving the political crisis in the South American country, the Norwegian government said Saturday.

Norway said it will mediate discussions next week in Oslo, in an indication that the negotiation track is gaining momentum after months of escalating tension between Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and Juan Guaido, the U.S.-backed opposition leader.

The negotiators

Top Maduro aide Jorge Rodriguez and Hector Rodriguez, the governor of Miranda state, both of whom were in Oslo earlier this month for an earlier round of exploratory talks, will once again lead the government delegation. They will be joined this time by Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza, said Maduro, who thanked Norway for promoting “peace and stability” in Venezuela through the mediation effort.

Larry Devoe, the government’s top human rights official, is also a delegate member, said a Venezuelan official who was not authorized to discuss the talks and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The opposition delegation is being led by Stalin Gonzalez, a senior member of the opposition-controlled congress, former Caracas area Mayor Gerardo Blyde and former Transport Minister Fernando Martinez Mottola, according to an opposition statement. They will be joined by Vicente Diaz, a supporter of past negotiations with the government who previously served on the nation’s electoral council.

Both delegations traveled Saturday for the meetings, according to officials.

Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soreide praised both sides for their involvement.

Representatives of Venezuela’s political factions traveled to the European country earlier this month for talks, but it had been unclear if they would continue to engage with one another amid increased tensions over the opposition’s call for a military uprising April 30.

The opposition had previously ruled out talks, accusing Maduro of using negotiations between 2016 and 2018 to play for time, and has demanded Maduro’s resignation and early elections. Maduro, in turn, alleges the opposition tried to seize power by force.

The U.S. State Department noted the arrests of key opposition figures in Venezuela and said the only thing to negotiate with Maduro is “the conditions of his departure” from office.

“We hope the talks in Oslo will focus on that objective, and if they do, we hope progress will be possible,” spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said.

Talks reflect stalemate

The diplomatic effort reflects recognition in Venezuela that neither side has been able to prevail in the struggle for power, leaving the country in a state of political paralysis after years of hyperinflation and shortages of food and medicine. Several million Venezuelans have left the country, creating Latin America’s biggest migration crisis.

The United States and more than 50 other countries support Guaido’s claim to be Venezuela’s rightful leader. The U.S. has imposed oil sanctions to try to force out Maduro, whose key allies are Cuba, Russia and China.

Norway has a long, successful history of foreign mediation: The country hosted peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians in September 1993 and Maoist rebels and the government in the Philippines in 2011. The government also brokered a 2002 cease-fire between Sri Lankan government and Tamil Tiger rebel negotiators. Seven years ago, mediators from the Colombian government and left-wing FARC rebels held their first direct talks in a decade in Norway.

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Albanians Renew Calls for Prime Minister to Quit

Albanian opposition supporters took to the streets again Saturday in a mostly peaceful protest, the sixth national one in three months, calling on Prime Minister Edi Rama to step down to pave the way for early elections.

Waving posters and releasing paper lanterns marked “Quit,” some in the crowd of several thousand threw a dozen paint bombs at Rama’s office. Some also hurled firecrackers at riot police near the parliament building.

But there was less unrest than in the last protest two weeks ago, when some demonstrators hurled petrol bombs, firecrackers and paint at the government building and parliament.

Rejecting allegations of fraud at the 2017 elections that gave his Socialist Party victory and him a second term in office, Rama told opposition Democratic Party leader Lulzim Basha he would not resign and urged him in a public letter to settle the crisis with talks.

“He is asking me, asking us to capitulate? Answer to him!” Basha told the crowd, who chanted back in unison: “Rama quit.” “Pave the way to the political solution,” Basha added.

Hours before the rally, the EU delegation, its member states’ embassies and the United States embassy had urged protesters to demonstrate peacefully.

“We call on all sides to build upon the existing offer for a dialogue, with the view to finding a way out of the current political situation as a matter of urgency,” the EU office said.

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Albanians Renew Calls for Prime Minister to Quit

Albanian opposition supporters took to the streets again Saturday in a mostly peaceful protest, the sixth national one in three months, calling on Prime Minister Edi Rama to step down to pave the way for early elections.

Waving posters and releasing paper lanterns marked “Quit,” some in the crowd of several thousand threw a dozen paint bombs at Rama’s office. Some also hurled firecrackers at riot police near the parliament building.

But there was less unrest than in the last protest two weeks ago, when some demonstrators hurled petrol bombs, firecrackers and paint at the government building and parliament.

Rejecting allegations of fraud at the 2017 elections that gave his Socialist Party victory and him a second term in office, Rama told opposition Democratic Party leader Lulzim Basha he would not resign and urged him in a public letter to settle the crisis with talks.

“He is asking me, asking us to capitulate? Answer to him!” Basha told the crowd, who chanted back in unison: “Rama quit.” “Pave the way to the political solution,” Basha added.

Hours before the rally, the EU delegation, its member states’ embassies and the United States embassy had urged protesters to demonstrate peacefully.

“We call on all sides to build upon the existing offer for a dialogue, with the view to finding a way out of the current political situation as a matter of urgency,” the EU office said.

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Exit Poll Shows Ireland’s Greens Surge in European, Local Voting

Support for Ireland’s Green Party surged in European and local elections, an exit poll showed Saturday, putting it in line to take its first seats in the European Parliament in 20 years and make the biggest gains in county and city councils. 

The Greens were set to win as many as three of the 13 European seats up for grabs and increase their local vote to 9% from less than 2% five years ago, according to a RED C exit poll for RTE/TG4, a showing that would put them in contention for government formation if repeated at a parliamentary poll. 

Results track polling

After 90 of the 949 council seats were filled at 1000 GMT, early results suggested the Greens’ performance was in line with the exit poll. In Dublin, some of their candidates topped polls by significant margins. 

“We cannot yet count our chickens, but the exit polls for the Irish Greens are extremely encouraging,” Irish Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said in a statement issued by the European Greens. 

European Greens co-lead candidate Bas Eickhout talked of a “green wave” rolling on to Irish shores from the Netherlands, where GroenLinks’ (GreenLeft’s) share of the vote rose to 10.5%, according to an exit poll there. 

​Possible kingmakers

While Ireland does not hold a significant share of the 751-seat EU chamber — and will initially send 11 MEPs until Britain actually leaves the bloc — an ebb in support for mainstream parties is raising hopes among Europe’s Greens that they could act as kingmakers. 

“It is those climate strikes, it is those young people standing up and saying we have to protect our future,” Ryan told national broadcaster RTE. 

The exit poll showed that almost 90% of voters feel that the government needs to prioritize climate change more. 

Health Minister Simon Harris of the governing Fine Gael said the topic came up on the doorsteps more in the last six months than in all of his last eight years as a member of parliament, while Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said the government had got a very clear message from the public that it wants more action. 

Fine Gael and the two main opposition parties, Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein, looked set to share most of the remaining European seats, with results set to be announced beginning Sunday. 

Fine Gael, Fianna Fail even

In Varadkar’s first electoral as Fine Gael leader, the exit poll put his party and fellow center-right Fianna Fail level on 23%, both down slightly from 2014, when Fianna Fail emerged as the biggest party. That set it up to close the gap on its main rival in parliamentary elections two years later. 

The left wing Sinn Fein was set to fall to 12% from 15%, and while the estimates suggested a further slight fragmentation of party support, it showed continued strong backing for centrist political parties in the EU’s most committed member state. 

“In a lot other European countries, the far right in particular is encroaching very significantly, and that isn’t the case here. In general terms, it looks like the center parties have done reasonably well,” said Theresa Reidy, a politics 

lecturer at University College Cork. 

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Exit Poll Shows Ireland’s Greens Surge in European, Local Voting

Support for Ireland’s Green Party surged in European and local elections, an exit poll showed Saturday, putting it in line to take its first seats in the European Parliament in 20 years and make the biggest gains in county and city councils. 

The Greens were set to win as many as three of the 13 European seats up for grabs and increase their local vote to 9% from less than 2% five years ago, according to a RED C exit poll for RTE/TG4, a showing that would put them in contention for government formation if repeated at a parliamentary poll. 

Results track polling

After 90 of the 949 council seats were filled at 1000 GMT, early results suggested the Greens’ performance was in line with the exit poll. In Dublin, some of their candidates topped polls by significant margins. 

“We cannot yet count our chickens, but the exit polls for the Irish Greens are extremely encouraging,” Irish Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said in a statement issued by the European Greens. 

European Greens co-lead candidate Bas Eickhout talked of a “green wave” rolling on to Irish shores from the Netherlands, where GroenLinks’ (GreenLeft’s) share of the vote rose to 10.5%, according to an exit poll there. 

​Possible kingmakers

While Ireland does not hold a significant share of the 751-seat EU chamber — and will initially send 11 MEPs until Britain actually leaves the bloc — an ebb in support for mainstream parties is raising hopes among Europe’s Greens that they could act as kingmakers. 

“It is those climate strikes, it is those young people standing up and saying we have to protect our future,” Ryan told national broadcaster RTE. 

The exit poll showed that almost 90% of voters feel that the government needs to prioritize climate change more. 

Health Minister Simon Harris of the governing Fine Gael said the topic came up on the doorsteps more in the last six months than in all of his last eight years as a member of parliament, while Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said the government had got a very clear message from the public that it wants more action. 

Fine Gael and the two main opposition parties, Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein, looked set to share most of the remaining European seats, with results set to be announced beginning Sunday. 

Fine Gael, Fianna Fail even

In Varadkar’s first electoral as Fine Gael leader, the exit poll put his party and fellow center-right Fianna Fail level on 23%, both down slightly from 2014, when Fianna Fail emerged as the biggest party. That set it up to close the gap on its main rival in parliamentary elections two years later. 

The left wing Sinn Fein was set to fall to 12% from 15%, and while the estimates suggested a further slight fragmentation of party support, it showed continued strong backing for centrist political parties in the EU’s most committed member state. 

“In a lot other European countries, the far right in particular is encroaching very significantly, and that isn’t the case here. In general terms, it looks like the center parties have done reasonably well,” said Theresa Reidy, a politics 

lecturer at University College Cork. 

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Senate Foreign Relations Chief: North Macedonian NATO Accession Vote Possible by June

This story originated in VOA’s Macedonian Service. 

WASHINGTON — U.S. lawmakers may vote to approve North Macedonia as the 30th member of NATO as early as next month, according to Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Senator James Risch.

“The process is that we need to have a hearing on it in the Foreign Relations Committee, and I have tentatively scheduled that for approximately two weeks from now,” the junior Idaho Republican senator told VOA’s Macedonian Service. “Then, as far as when it will be finalized, it goes to the Senate floor, and we would very much like to have that done in June, and we are cautiously optimistic that we can get that done in June.”

North Macedonia’s long-standing bid to join the military alliance was blocked for more than a decade because of a name dispute with neighboring Greece, which has a province called Macedonia.

North Macedonia, formerly known as Macedonia, changed its name under the Prespa Agreement in June 2018 with Greece, opening the path to NATO and EU membership.

North Macedonia’s accession protocol was signed by all member states in Brussels on Feb. 6. The accession process continues in the capital of each allied nation, where individual protocols are ratified according to national procedures.

U.S. President Donald Trump, who has praised the country as a “steadfast security partner,” submitted its NATO accession protocol to the Senate for ratification on April 30.

North Macedonia’s full accession to the alliance would represent a blow to Russia, which opposes NATO expansion and, therefore, the country’s accession.

Asked if North Macedonia’s NATO membership can reduce Russian influence or political meddling within North Macedonia, he said “that’s going to be up to the North Macedonian people themselves.”

“But they’ve already spoken on that,” Risch said. “I think the election itself, regarding accession, was a good, clear indication that they don’t want that Russian influence, that they don’t want that Russian propaganda. So, this taking of what would really be a final step into NATO is a final rejection of Russia and what it stands for and the kind of malign influence they bring.”

Last August, members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Wisconsin Republican Senator Ron Johnson and Connecticut Democrat Senator Chris Murphy, sponsored a bipartisan resolution to put the tiny Balkan country on the path to NATO and European Union membership.

Risch also said he anticipates near-unanimous support for North Macedonia’s accession protocol when the bill arrives on the Senate floor.

 

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Senate Foreign Relations Chief: North Macedonian NATO Accession Vote Possible by June

This story originated in VOA’s Macedonian Service. 

WASHINGTON — U.S. lawmakers may vote to approve North Macedonia as the 30th member of NATO as early as next month, according to Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Senator James Risch.

“The process is that we need to have a hearing on it in the Foreign Relations Committee, and I have tentatively scheduled that for approximately two weeks from now,” the junior Idaho Republican senator told VOA’s Macedonian Service. “Then, as far as when it will be finalized, it goes to the Senate floor, and we would very much like to have that done in June, and we are cautiously optimistic that we can get that done in June.”

North Macedonia’s long-standing bid to join the military alliance was blocked for more than a decade because of a name dispute with neighboring Greece, which has a province called Macedonia.

North Macedonia, formerly known as Macedonia, changed its name under the Prespa Agreement in June 2018 with Greece, opening the path to NATO and EU membership.

North Macedonia’s accession protocol was signed by all member states in Brussels on Feb. 6. The accession process continues in the capital of each allied nation, where individual protocols are ratified according to national procedures.

U.S. President Donald Trump, who has praised the country as a “steadfast security partner,” submitted its NATO accession protocol to the Senate for ratification on April 30.

North Macedonia’s full accession to the alliance would represent a blow to Russia, which opposes NATO expansion and, therefore, the country’s accession.

Asked if North Macedonia’s NATO membership can reduce Russian influence or political meddling within North Macedonia, he said “that’s going to be up to the North Macedonian people themselves.”

“But they’ve already spoken on that,” Risch said. “I think the election itself, regarding accession, was a good, clear indication that they don’t want that Russian influence, that they don’t want that Russian propaganda. So, this taking of what would really be a final step into NATO is a final rejection of Russia and what it stands for and the kind of malign influence they bring.”

Last August, members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Wisconsin Republican Senator Ron Johnson and Connecticut Democrat Senator Chris Murphy, sponsored a bipartisan resolution to put the tiny Balkan country on the path to NATO and European Union membership.

Risch also said he anticipates near-unanimous support for North Macedonia’s accession protocol when the bill arrives on the Senate floor.

 

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Senate Foreign Relations Chief: North Macedonian NATO Accession Vote Possible by June

This story originated in VOA’s Macedonian Service. 

WASHINGTON — U.S. lawmakers may vote to approve North Macedonia as the 30th member of NATO as early as next month, according to Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Senator James Risch.

“The process is that we need to have a hearing on it in the Foreign Relations Committee, and I have tentatively scheduled that for approximately two weeks from now,” the junior Idaho Republican senator told VOA’s Macedonian Service. “Then, as far as when it will be finalized, it goes to the Senate floor, and we would very much like to have that done in June, and we are cautiously optimistic that we can get that done in June.”

North Macedonia’s long-standing bid to join the military alliance was blocked for more than a decade because of a name dispute with neighboring Greece, which has a province called Macedonia.

North Macedonia, formerly known as Macedonia, changed its name under the Prespa Agreement in June 2018 with Greece, opening the path to NATO and EU membership.

North Macedonia’s accession protocol was signed by all member states in Brussels on Feb. 6. The accession process continues in the capital of each allied nation, where individual protocols are ratified according to national procedures.

U.S. President Donald Trump, who has praised the country as a “steadfast security partner,” submitted its NATO accession protocol to the Senate for ratification on April 30.

North Macedonia’s full accession to the alliance would represent a blow to Russia, which opposes NATO expansion and, therefore, the country’s accession.

Asked if North Macedonia’s NATO membership can reduce Russian influence or political meddling within North Macedonia, he said “that’s going to be up to the North Macedonian people themselves.”

“But they’ve already spoken on that,” Risch said. “I think the election itself, regarding accession, was a good, clear indication that they don’t want that Russian influence, that they don’t want that Russian propaganda. So, this taking of what would really be a final step into NATO is a final rejection of Russia and what it stands for and the kind of malign influence they bring.”

Last August, members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Wisconsin Republican Senator Ron Johnson and Connecticut Democrat Senator Chris Murphy, sponsored a bipartisan resolution to put the tiny Balkan country on the path to NATO and European Union membership.

Risch also said he anticipates near-unanimous support for North Macedonia’s accession protocol when the bill arrives on the Senate floor.

 

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