There was a cordial tone between Bulgaria’s Prime Minister Kiril Petkov and his North Macedonian counterpart Dimitar Kovachevski at a news conference after their talks in Skopje on January 18, as they underlined their shared commitment to a positive new beginning in bilateral relations.
Petkov was the first head of government to visit North Macedonia after Kovachevski’s January 16 election as Prime Minister, and Kovachevski thanked him for keeping his promise that he would do so.
The visit by the delegation headed by Petkov comes a week before a planned joint meeting of the Bulgarian and North Macedonian governments in Skopje on January 25, as well as the founding of joint working groups in key policy areas.
“With Prime Minister Petkov, we found common ground for mutual respect,” Kovachevski said, describing his Bulgarian counterpart as his “dear friend” and assuring him that “here, you will always feel yourself to be among friends”.
Kovachevski said that one of the most important issues for the Republic of North Macedonia was the country’s European integration.
This was a reference to a background of disputes between the two countries in recent years, including on historical issues, resulting in Bulgaria standing in the path of North Macedonia beginning EU membership talks.
Kovachevski said that together with Petkov “we want to use the new energy to achieve a common goal, for a better future for both countries”.
He described the day’s meetings as “the first step forward in a new chapter”.
The January 25 meeting of the two governments would establish further steps for co-operation in a number of areas, Kovachevski said.
Petkov said that the working groups would meet every week “with clear goals, with clear results, and not only political statements”.
“I can assure you that I am very optimistic about our joint actions and you will see results on a weekly basis,” he said.
Petkov said that an air link between Sofia and Skopje would become a reality, and within 30 days there would be exact specifics about this. Since taking office in mid-December last year, Petkov has bemoaned the lack of direct air and rail links between the two capitals, describing this as incomprehensible.
Kovachevski said that the working groups – on trade, infrastructure and transport links, education and culture and European integration issues – would include not only politicians but also representatives from the various sectors. He said that the working groups would report back to the public about their accomplishments and results.
Both prime ministers emphasised that the approach would be to seek common ground, including at the joint historical commission.
Kovachevski said that his country had sent a note verbale to the United Nations that the name “North Macedonia” applied to the country and not elsewhere in the region. The note said that the country had no territorial claims on any other.
He and Petkov agreed that it was acceptable for Bulgaria to use that name to refer to his country.
Petkov, whose delegation includes Bulgaria’s foreign minister, transport minister and Deputy Speaker Kristian Vigenin, was also due to hold talks on January 18 with North Macedonia’s President Stevo Pendarovski, Speaker of Parliament Talat Xhaferi and leaders of political parties represented in Parliament.
(Main photo: vlada.mk)
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