Bulgaria’s PM: Visit to N Macedonia will go ahead this month

Bulgaria’s Prime Minister Kiril Petkov said in a video message on January 11 that a visit to North Macedonia that had been planned for next Monday but was now postponed would go ahead this month.

The visit was postponed after President Roumen Radev called a January 10 meeting of the Consultative Council on National Security, bringing together Bulgaria’s state, government and political leaders, to discuss relations with North Macedonia.

One of those in attendance, National Assembly Speaker Nikola Minchev, soon afterwards tested positive for Covid-19, turning Radev’s headline-grasping event into one that resulted in much of the country’s leadership being subject to Covid-19 quarantine rules.

Petkov, whose government took office less than a month ago, had promoted his delegation’s visit to North Macedonia as a new beginning to resolve troubled bilateral relations that have led to Bulgaria standing in the way of the former Yugoslav republic’s EU membership aspirations.

In a video message on January 11, Petkov said that the Monday meeting of the consultative council had been a “timely and useful” discussion.

Petkov said that it had shown that all participants shared a common goal – overcoming the stalemate in Bulgaria’s relations with the Republic of North Macedonia and providing a new beginning in the pursuit of good neighbourliness.

The government would begin work on implementing the programme in various areas, and the rights of Bulgarians in Macedonia would be at the centre of its efforts, Petkov said.

The leader of the opposition GERB party, Boiko Borissov, has described the meeting convened by Radev on Monday as “pointless”, given that Bulgaria’s position had been spelt out in its 2017 bilateral agreement with North Macedonia. This assertion by Borissov has been rejected by the Radev camp.

In his video address, Petkov said; “This month I will go to the Republic of North Macedonia to show that through constructive dialogue and dialogical action we can do much more than what has happened in recent years.

“Together we can do more,” Petkov said.

“I want to thank the President for convening the Consultative Council on National Security yesterday, as well as the parliamentary groups for their participation. We united together around a common goal – good neighbourliness. We confirmed Bulgaria’s current position in our relations with North Macedonia,” he said.

“In this new start, we need to discuss important topics for both countries on the rights of Bulgarians in North Macedonia, common infrastructure, a common cultural calendar, European integration and history,” Petkov said.

In line with the new order issued by the Health Minister on January 11, the quarantine for contact persons with Minchev will last until January 16, inclusive. The quarantine for Minchev, as someone who has tested positive for Covid-19, will last until January 19.

Bulgaria’s Cabinet is scheduled to meet on January 12, in a mixed format of those who attended Radev’s meeting participating online, and the rest in-person. Contact persons include Petkov, Interior Minister Boiko Rashkov and Defence Minister Stefan Yanev, who are being substituted at in-person meetings by deputies.

Bulgaria’s Parliament is also due to meet on January 12. Of its deputy presiding officers, the most senior, and exempt from quarantine rules because he had Covid-19 fewer than three months ago, is Deputy Speaker, the Bulgarian Socialist Party’s, Kristian Vigenin. Parliament said in a statement that Minchev would participate online.

The Sofia Globe’s coverage of the Covid-19 situation in Bulgaria is supported by the Embassies of Switzerland and Finland.

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