Boiko Borissov, leader of Bulgaria’s centre-right GERB party and expected soon to become his country’s prime minister, has called for a political solution in the neighbouring Republic of Macedonia and described external interference in that country’s domestic affairs as unacceptable.
The crisis in Macedonia was the topic of comments from various state and government institutions and across the political spectrum in Bulgaria, a day after nationalists stormed the parliament in Skopje after an ethnic Albanian was elected speaker.
Borissov said that he was strongly concerned about what was going on in Macedonia.
“It is vital, including for Bulgaria, that Macedonia keeps its integrity as a country and continues on the track of Euro-Atlantic integration.” It is not good to have such instability across Bulgaria’s borders, he said.
He said that he would use his personal connections to tell politicians in Skopje that “when tensions arise, the way to go is resign, as we have done in Bulgaria, in Italy, in the UK”. “You go to the elections and then people have the say,” Borissov said.
Macedonia held elections in December 2016 but these have failed to produce a solution as neither of the two largest parties have achieved the formation of a government. Former prime minister, the conservative Nikola Gruevski, could not make a deal with an ethnic Albanian minority party to get sufficient support in parliament, while Gruevski ally president Gjorge Ivanov has not heeded calls from socialist leader Zoran Zaev for a mandate to form a government.
Responding to questions on the topic of Bulgaria’s security, Borissov underlined the dangers of destabilisation in the region, especially when it comes to a lack of ethnic tolerance.
“That is why many times in GERB we have been criticized for being almost behind-the-scenes, in a way, in our tolerance towards the MRF (a party traditionally led and supported in the main by Bulgarians of Turkish ethnicity).
“I believe that the Bulgarian ethnic model of tolerance, respect, is also an example.”
He said that if a line was crossed, tensions worsened. “Remember when in the election campaign here and there Ottoman hymns, songs, were used, suddenly how the tensions in Bulgaria grew,” Borissov said.
Borisov emphasised that Macedonia’s integrity and its path to the EU and Nato was vital for Bulgaria.
“That’s what I can say, because if I go into details I will actually start to mess with them. I have called them as friends, as colleagues, as people we know long ago, to show reason, to change their feelings towards one another and to go and do their job. Everyone in Europe is waiting for them to meet their criteria anyway,” Borissov said.
He said that in recent days, his party had worked with President Roumen Radev, giving a clear example “of how we can work solely in the name of Bulgaria”. Radev was elected head of state in late 2016 on a ticket backed by the Bulgarian Socialist Party, the main party in opposition to GERB, winner of the 2017 parliamentary elections.
Asked if, in Bulgaria’s forthcoming presidency of the EU – in the first half of 2018 – the situation in the Western Balkans could be a priority, Borissov said that it was very important that Bulgaria should be an example for the others with political stability, responsible politicians and normal relations.
Radev said on April 28 that Bulgaria would insist that the EU engage more with Macedonia and have a clear perspective on the future of all Western Balkan countries.
He said that these countries have to meet the criteria for their eventual membership of the EU, but they need serious assistance.
Within the EU and Nato, a solution needs to be found to the issue of Macedonia, Radev said, indicating that the issue could be raised at the April 29 special meeting of the European Council.
Radev said that there are no threats or risks to Bulgaria from the events of last night in Macedonia, but at the same time, what is happening in Macedonia would not contribute to stability in the region.