Bulgarian PM hints at chance to lift the veto, after summit

Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov speaks to journalists at the doorstep of the Western Balkans summit on 23 June 2022. [Georgi Gotev]

Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov said on Thursday (23 June) there was no chance Bulgaria would lift its veto on North Macedonia during this EU summit but hinted a solution could be imminent in the coming days.

After the Bulgarian government fell the previous evening, no political party in Bulgaria wants to lose face ahead of early elections. With the fourth vote in just over a year likely to occur in September, lifting the veto would not sit well with the electorate, which primarily supports it.

Petkov, now in the capacity of former- prime minister, sticks to his position that parliament needs to pass a resolution allowing the veto to be lifted, based on endorsing the proposal of the French Presidency.

Petkov said he “personally” liked the French proposal, but it was not up to him but the parliament to take a position.

Speaking to journalists at the Western Balkans summit doorstep, Petkov explained that the Bulgarian parliament had to greenlight lifting the veto, and only then would he make his move which should be sustainable over time, no matter who governs.

“This is what I am going to tell EU leaders”, he said.

He stressed that the Bulgarian opposition used the Macedonian issue to blackmail his cabinet each time they feared corruption from their time in office would be uncovered.

“There is such a people”, a partner in Petkov’s four-way coalition, leftover disagreements, officially concerning the state budget and the prime minister’s handling of the North Macedonia issue.

Petkov was accused of making openings to Skopje behind the back of the Bulgarian parliament, which insists that several conditions be implemented before the veto can be lifted.

Without the support of “There is such a people”, Petkov lost the vote of non-confidence, to the delight of his predecessor Boyko Borissov, who hopes to return to power after snap elections.

Petkov’s government falls from power

A no-confidence vote led to the Bulgarian parliament overthrowing the government of Kiril Petkov, which was elected only six months ago, and Bulgarians will likely vote again in general elections in the autumn, the fourth such vote in just over …

The tense political situation in the Bulgarian parliament following the no-confidence vote passed yesterday does not help a quick solution to the veto problem.

No political party wants to take responsibility for a decision likely to be criticised by public opinion, especially with elections looming.

The main opposition party, Borissov’s GERB, says it will back a resolution to lift the veto if Petkov proposes it.

Asked by EURACTIV about Borissov, who is trying to position himself as a constructive politician, Petkov quipped:

“He is the most dishonest person I know. He says in the morning, ‘I want to support North Macedonia’s entrance into the EU’… At the same time, he blocks the [foreign] affairs committee in the parliament the same afternoon.”

Analysts and diplomats told EURACTIV that even the most optimistic scenario for lifting the veto required time.

Notably, the parliaments in Sofia and Skopje should endorse the protocol of the latest session from 3 June of the joint Bulgaria-North Macedonia committee in charge of implementing the bilateral agreement of 2017.

The protocol, seen by EURACTIV, contains commitments by Skopje to implement the Bulgarian conditions, also reflected in the French proposal.

The Bulgarian parliament might endorse the protocol, but it is not sure the parliament in Skopje would do the same, in which case lifting the veto is “mission impossible”, experts and diplomats say.

EU diplomats appear to overlook the role that Skopje should play in solving the problem.

Asked to comment on the chances of the Bulgarian veto being lifted, EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said:

“There is still hope, but I don’t know what the Bulgarian parliament can do in the next hours, but things are not going well, and we should try to mend it”.

He omitted to mention the role of the parliament in Skopje.

[Edited by Alice Taylor]

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