Bulgaria’s National Assembly voted on February 20 to approve the ratification of the Republic of North Macedonia’s Nato accession protocol.
In the 240-seat legislature, the vote was 140 in favour and none against.
The vote was supported by all parliamentary groups present: Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s GERB, the United Patriots coalition, the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, Volya and independent MPs. The opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party currently is boycotting sittings of Parliament.
The debate and vote were held in the presence of the Speaker of the Republic of North Macedonia’s Parliament, Talat Xhaferi, who currently is on an official visit to Sofia.
Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva described the day as historic, and said that Nato’s enlargement policy is seen as one of the most successful instruments for prosperity.
North Macedonia’s Nato membership would “make us allies able to participate in solving global and regional problems,” she said.
“Joint training exercises between our armies will contribute both to the development of our defence capabilities and will help overcome the unfairly imposed prejudices of the past,” Zaharieva said.
She said that Bulgaria would continue with diplomatic efforts for North Macedonia to become a member of the EU and to receive an invitation in June to start negotiations.
United Patriots parliamentary group leader, Ataka’s Volen Siderov, tabled an annexe to the protocol obliging the two countries not to manipulate history, and asked for a clearer answer about what role North Macedonia would play in Nato.
Valeri Simeonov, a co-leader of the United Patriots, said that the neighbouring country should change its behaviour towards Bulgaria, “stop ruining Bulgarian monuments” and stop repressing people who identified as Bulgarian.
After the legislatures in Skopje and Athens approved the Prespa Agreement, ending the dispute between the former Yugoslav republic and Greece over the use of the name Macedonia, all the permanent representatives to Nato signed North Macedonia’s accession protocol on February 6.
Bulgaria’s government was among the first to approve North Macedonia’s Nato accession protocol.
The process of ratification of the accession protocol by the legislatures of all Nato member states is expected to take several months to a year, after which North Macedonia will become the alliance’s 30th member.
(Photo: of the Speaker of North Macedonia’s Parliament, Talat Xhaferi, and his Bulgarian counterpart, Tsveta Karayancheva: parliament.bg)