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Hopes of a breakthrough in the stalled European Union enlargement process in the Western Balkans rose after the Bulgarian opposition agreed to support the lifting of the country’s veto at the start of accession talks with North Macedonia.

Boyko Borissov, a former Bulgarian prime minister, said his (centre-right) party would vote to start EU negotiations. If adopted by the Bulgarian parliament, it would also open membership talks with Albania ahead of a summit of EU leaders on Thursday and Friday.

“This is the most correct decision for the future of the Balkans, the European Union and Bulgaria,” Borissov said. “We will not remain on the dark side of Eurasia, and we will not allow Putin.”

The move marks a new turning point for Borisov, who suspended talks with North Macedonia in 2019 in a row over the former Yugoslav country’s interpretation of Balkan history.

Bulgaria’s reformist prime minister, Kirill Petkov, was on the verge of striking a deal with Skopje to open talks when one of the parties in his coalition withdrew in protest over the issue earlier this month, leaving him clinging to power.

A vote on enlargement talks could take place in Parliament on Thursday, with the European Union Party (GERB) backing enough to lift its veto over Sofia.

European officials fear that blocking EU enlargement would lead to political instability in the Western Balkans and disillusionment about the region’s western orientation, which Russia could exploit.

In another indication of possible action, North Macedonia, Serbia and Albania confirmed on Wednesday that they would take part in a summit in Brussels tomorrow with EU leaders, a day after threatening not to attend the meeting due to Bulgaria’s opposition to North Macedonia’s candidacy.

“We will attend the EU Council meeting,” Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama said, adding that Bulgaria’s stance is like a “kidnapping” and “destroying” the “spirit of Europe”.

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