Macedonian PM Zaev tells Bulgarian Foreign Minister: ‘Today the Balkans are building friendships’

Meeting Bulgarian Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva, the Republic of Macedonia’s Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said that he believed that his country would give hers all the guarantees it needs in the future.

This is according to a statement by the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry on June 16, after talks between Zaev and Zaharieva, who was on the second day of a two-day visit to Macedonia.

Zaev said that the good-neighbourliness treaty with Bulgaria had produced new growth in his country’s economy and new Bulgarian investment in Macedonia.

He said that the good-neighbourliness treaty was “one of the biggest motivations for reforms in the Republic of Macedonia” and the same was true for the agreement with Greece. Zaev was referring to the deal with Athens on the name “Republic of North Macedonia” for the former Yugoslav republic.

The Zaev-Tsipras deal on the name is scheduled to be signed on June 17.

Zaev said that the treaty with Greece “can only strengthen our treaty with Bulgaria”. He said that there were clauses in it that “respect the content of other contracts”.

This was an apparent reference to some politicians in Bulgaria, not in government, expressing concerns that the deal on the name should not leave open the possibility for Macedonia to make territorial claims in Bulgaria.

Zaharieva said that eight months after the signing of the Bulgarian – Macedonian good-neighbourliness agreement, “people here saw that it is only positive, and today 70 per cent of your country’s citizens support it”.

She said Bulgaria, as a friendly country, and the entire Bulgarian government were standing by the Republic of Macedonia on its European path.

Zaharieva expressed the hope that at its meeting on June 29 2018, the European Council would decide to start EU membership negotiations with Macedonia.

Zaev said that he shared this hope and expressed happiness that his country’s progress was taking place during the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the EU. “Today the Balkans are building friendships and I am happy that we live in a time when our two countries have created such relations,” he said.

The Tsipras-Zaev agreement on the “Republic of North Macedonia” name has been sharply criticised by the oppositions in their respective countries. In Skopje, President Gjorge Ivanov has denounced the agreement. This led to Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov and Foreign Minister Zaharieva refusing to see him during his visit to Sofia this week.

Spiros Sideris, head of the Independent Balkan News Agency, told Bulgarian National Radio on June 16 that there would no serious protests in Greece against the name agreement because most Greeks wanted the matter resolved.

He said that it was unlikely that the Greek opposition’s motion of no confidence in Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras would succeed. He pointed to Tsipras’s statement that the no-confidence motion over the name deal provided him with an opportunity to highlight the positive aspects of the deal.

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The Sofia Globe staff

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