With a vote of 206 in favour, none against and with no abstentions, Bulgaria’s Parliament adopted on July 27 a declaration supporting the draft good neighbourliness agreement with the Republic of Macedonia.
The draft agreement has been approved both by the governments of Bulgaria and of Macedonia and is set to be signed on August 2.
The declaration by Bulgaria’s 240-member National Assembly acknowledges positively the efforts of the two countries on finalising the treaty, expresses the expectation that the signing will go ahead as planned and that ratification will take place as soon as possible.
The declaration proposes that Bulgaria’s Cabinet should submit to the National Assembly an annual report on the implementation of the treaty after its signature, ratification and entry into force.
Parliament noted that Bulgaria was the first country to recognise the independence of the Republic of Macedonia, on January 15 1992, and that Macedonia occupies a specific place in the policy of Bulgaria in the context of South Eastern Europe, cultural ties, contacts between the citizens of both countries and the common border.
The declaration notes that the treaty of friendship, good neighbourliness and co-operation is among the foreign policy priorities of the Bulgarian state.
It notes that since 2008, all Bulgarian governments, representing the entire political spectrum of Bulgaria, have demonstrated continuity in the negotiations.
The declaration cites the need to develop co-operation in all areas on the basis of mutual respect, trust, understanding and respect for the interests of the Republic of Bulgaria and the Republic of Macedonia, the desire to intensify economic and cultural ties and close contacts between the citizens of Bulgaria and Macedonia and the understanding that the European perspective of the Republic of Macedonia is a guarantee for the security, stability and prosperity of the region.
Responding to the outcome of the vote, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov said that Parliament had shown that it would support the ratification of the text.
Earlier, Borissov had appealed to the National Assembly to support the July 27 declaration, saying that it was better to have a stable Republic of Macedonia.
“It would be good to have a mandate to sign this treaty. I am confident that each of you understands that it is better to have a stable Republic of Macedonia, which has prospects, that people in this country have the prospect for Nato and the EU,” he said.
Bulgarian Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva, speaking on July 26 after the Cabinet approved the draft agreement, said that she hoped that the agreement would be a new start for bilateral relations, “but let’s be realists, it’s going to be a long process”.
“This treaty offers a real opportunity for better relations and a chance to allow history to bring us together – not divide us – by looking together in our common future,” Zaharieva said.
The United States embassies in Bulgaria and Macedonia welcomed the approval of the draft Bulgaria-Macedonia friendship agreement.
“The agreement recognizes the close ties between the two countries and enhances cooperation in the interests of their citizens. Such engagement sets an encouraging example for resolving issues between neighbours and enhances political stability and economic development in the Western Balkans. We commend Bulgaria and Macedonia for this historic, forward-looking step,” the US embassies in Sofia and Skopje said.
Macedonian prime minister Zoran Zaev, addressing a news conference in Skopje on July 26 on the treaty, said: “This agreement is in accordance with the national interests of the Republic of Macedonia. This great step – as we have stated in the agreement – corresponds to the interests of the peoples of Macedonia and Bulgaria.
“The deal reflects a new spirit of politics from today’s generation of policy makers who build bridges, not break down, who are gripping hands to bring together the citizens, not turning their backs to divide them. And I, as prime minister and the new government, are firmly committed to leading policies that solve problems, and do not create or escape them,” Zaev said.
He said that in Bulgaria, “we have a friend and a neighbour in good faith to close a question that unnecessarily drains attention and energy instead of directing them towards the interests of the citizens of both countries and their peoples”.
“What is significant for the Republic of Macedonia is that the Republic of Bulgaria firmly supports the accession of the Republic of Macedonia to the EU and Nato, without setting conditions and the country is ready to transfer all the experiences from the European integration process,” Zaev said.
- The text of the treaty has been posted, in Bulgarian, on the website of the Foreign Ministry in Sofia.
(Photo: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)