Bulgaria’s Foreign Ministry, in a statement on June 12, welcomed the agreement reached between the governments in Skopje and Athens on the long-standing Macedonian name dispute.
“This opens the way for the European and Euro-Atlantic integration of our neighbour. This is a real chance, at the end of the Bulgarian presidency of the Council of the European Union, for advancement and a horizon for starting accession talks,” the Foreign Ministry statement said.
Bulgaria was one of the first countries to recognise the neighbouring country using its current constitutional name of Republic of Macedonia in January 1992, after it declared independence from Yugoslavia. However, relations between Sofia and Skopje were vexed for years over issues of identity, language and history, though a positive turning point was reached with the 2017 agreement on the good-neighbourliness agreement.
Greece has long opposed its neighbour’s name, fearing that it could serve as grounds for territorial claims in the future, specifically over its own province of Macedonia in the north of the country. It has officially referred to its neighbour as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and has repeatedly blocked its neighbour’s progress towards Nato and EU membership.
The latest proposal would see Macedonia change its name to the Republic of Northern Macedonia, subject to approval at a plebiscite that could be held later this year.
“The new name, Republic of Northern Macedonia, should not be interpreted as the basis for a future change in existing borders or claims towards neighbours regarding language, culture, history and identity,” the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry said.
“The Foreign Ministry will insist that our two neighbouring, partnering and friendly nations give guarantees that these two principles will be unequivocally stated and enshrined in the treaty between them,” the statement said.
(Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Photo: mfa.bg)