Bulgaria to let North Macedonia into EU under three conditions

The accession talks to be greenlighted if Skopje does not have any territorial, linguistic or minority claims

Bulgaria is not yet ready to give greenlight to North Macedonia for starting EU membership negotiations. Our country continues to hold firmly to three conditions which to be included in the negotiating framework before it has been approved on 10 November at the General Affairs Council by the Foreign Affairs Ministers.

This became clear from the words of the Deputy PM and Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva at a briefing on this topic, as our country’s position was also discussed during a 40-minute video conversation between the Prime Minister Boyko Borissov and the German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

"Bulgaria and myself are grateful for the commitment of the German Presidency of the EU Council and to you personally for the search of formulas to allow the start of EU membership negotiations of the Republic of North Macedonia," Borissov told Merkel. He expressed confidence that with the help of Germany, especially during the country's EU Council Presidency, true and correct solutions on the subject would be reached.

At the briefing, Zaharieva explained that she visited Berlin the day before. There, with the cooperation of the German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and his colleague in European affairs Michael Roth, they had over 5 hours of talks with the North Macedonian side, which had been represented by the Macedonian Foreign Minister Buyar Osmani and the Macedonian Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs Nikola Dimitrov. Germany, which currently holds the presidency of the EU Council, had been a parliamentarian.

Bulgaria wants to include in the negotiating framework's text the formula for the language that was used in the good-neighbourliness treaty from 2017, which references officially spoken language in the country, but not Macedonian language. Another possibility is the evolution and genesis of language to be recognised. Regarding this, Zaharieva made it clear that there is a convergence of positions, but they expect to see what the final version of the text will be.

The second condition is that the Macedonian authorities clearly state that they will not support territorial and minority claims by state institutions, other European organisations included. The third requirement is a text to be included in the framework that a guarantee plan for the implementation of the 2017 treaty must be adopted.

Zaharieva also stressed that in the last year there has been a systematic and permanent non-compliance with the Treaty not only concerning the
historical commission, which has not met for nearly 1 year. She explained that there was a delay in many infrastructure projects, such as Corridor VIII, and instances of creating administrative obstacles for Bulgarian investors as well.

According to her, it is not important whether 25 or 45 historical figures
the joint historical commission will agreed on. If they remain on paper, there will be no effect. “That is the reason we want the next step, and we cannot close our eyes,” she said explaining that our proposal for the framework position must pass through the Council of Ministers, and it will also be proposed to the National Assembly. According to her, the best option is to include our conditions in the negotiating framework, and possibly then, if necessary, to be signed a bilateral protocol.

At that time, the trust of Sofia in Skopje has been lost, said in turn the Minister of Defence and leader of VMRO Krassimir Karakachanov. He reminded that since October 2019 there is a Framework position on EU accession, which is also approved by the Bulgarian Parliament, and clearly defines the terms and conditions under which Bulgaria would support the membership of North Macedonia in the EU.

None of its conditions were met by the Macedonian side, especially for progress in the work of the bilateral historical commission. Later, the President Rumen Radev commented on the topic, saying that North Macedonia's membership in the EU is important for us, but clear criteria that must be met. We cannot mortgage our national identity, Radev said. According to him, half-hearted declarations about the language and identity are only part of the problem.

More on this subject: EU accession

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