N Macedonia’s PM: Bulgaria visit gives ‘new impetus’ to resolving historical issues

Republic of North Macedonia Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said on June 17 that his visit to Bulgaria’s capital city Sofia would give new impetus to the work of the joint commission set up under the good neighbourliness treaty to resolve issues in shared history.

North Macedonia and Bulgaria have been locked in disputes over issues in shared history as well as national identity, which has led Sofia to stand in the path of Skopje’s EU accession hopes.

Bulgaria’s caretaker government has said that it would continue its predecessor’s policies towards North Macedonia, which has been taken as an indication that there is little prospect for now of the neighbouring country’s EU path being unblocked.

Zaev held a succession of talks, including with caretaker Prime Minister Stefan Yanev, to whom he presented “specific proposals” for improving the dialogue between the two countries. Yanev said that these proposals would be intensively discussed in coming days.

Earlier in the day, Zaev met GERB party leader Boiko Borissov, who told him that President Bulgarian President Roumen Radev would evade responsibility for trying to resolve bilateral issues, as would the caretaker government.

Borissov said that the caretaker government was lying when it said that it was in favour of North Macedonia’s EU accession.

After the meeting, Borissov tweeted: “If we do not find a solution – generations of Bulgarians and Macedonians will hate each other. I assume that President Radev’s caretaker cabinet will desert and the decision on the European integration of the Republic of Northern (sic) Macedonia will be left to the next regular government”.

Zaev and Boiko Borissov on June 17.

Commenting on Borissov’s statements, including that the caretaker government had the power to clear the way for North Macedonia’s EU accession talks when the bloc’s foreign ministers meet on June 22, Yanev said: “To get questions from Bulgaria’s political leaders as to whether or not I can do something, there is the counter-question, why haven’t they done it so far?”

Ahead of his visit to Sofia, Zaev said that he doubted that there would be a breakthrough on June 22.

“If a solution is reached, woo-hoo, great,” he said. The first opportunities for a breakthrough were at the EU foreign ministers meeting on June 22 and the European Council on June 24 and 25, and the next opportunity would be on October 6, when a European Council meeting on the Western Balkans will be held in Slovenia, he said.

Meeting Zaev, Radev said that the Republic of North Macedonia was for Bulgaria “the most important close friendly country”.

Zaev and Radev.

“That is why we need regular contacts, dialogue and co-operation,” Radev said.

“Unfortunately, in recent years, these relations have reached a dead end, the dialogue has been frozen, and this has affected your prospect of joining the EU,” Radev told Zaev.

Zaev also met Bulgarian Socialist Party leader Kornelia Ninova. Zaev said that Slavi Trifonov’s ITN party and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms had declined requests for meetings.

The North Macedonian delegation is due to spend the night in Sofia, for talks with Bulgarian leaders in a more informal setting.

(Photos: government.bg and vlada.mk)

Please support independent journalism by clicking on the orange button below. For as little as three euro a month or the equivalent in other currencies, you can support The Sofia Globe via patreon.com:

Become a Patron!

The Sofia Globe staff

The Sofia Globe - the Sofia-based fully independent English-language news and features website, covering Bulgaria, the Balkans and the EU. Sign up to subscribe to sofiaglobe.com's daily bulletin through the form on our homepage. https://www.patreon.com/user?u=32709292