Sofia gives hope for lifting North Macedonia veto

Radev added that these are issues that affect the foundations of the European Union and the European partners have finally realised that the negotiating framework is the place to address these issues. [EPA-EFE/RUI MANUEL FARINHA]

With days to go before EU leaders discuss enlargement at the EU summit, Sofia has given a bit of hope that its veto over North Macedonia opening accession talks could be lifted.

North Macedonia and Albania, whose path is tied to Skopje, has been vetoed by Bulgaria over a cultural, historical and human rights dispute. Macedonians call for accession to start and all issues to be ironed out during negotiations, whereas Bulgaria has remained defiant- until yesterday at least.

“Let the Council of Ministers and the National Assembly decide expertly whether a bilateral protocol with Skopje sufficiently defends the Bulgarian interest because this protocol must become part of the negotiating framework and from now on build all relations on its basis,” Bulgarian Presiden Rumen Radev said on Monday.

Radev refers to a suggestion made by the French Council Presidency that the matters be dealt with during chapters with the country only progressing if solutions are found, similar to Skopje’s own suggestion.

“The proposals of the French presidency are the best so far, they are the fairest. Bilateral issues need to be raised at the EU level. This is not just a bilateral history dispute between Bulgaria and the Republic of North Macedonia,” commented Radev.

Radev added that these are issues that affect the foundations of the European Union, and the European partners have finally realised that the negotiating framework is the place to address these issues.

The French presidency has proposed steps for both countries to lift the veto. The Bulgarian government has passed the issue to the parliament, which does not seem likely to discuss the proposal before the upcoming EU meeting this week.

According to Radev, the current approach of having the government pass the issue to the parliament does not work.

However, the president’s position unties the hands of the Bulgarian socialist party, which is a part of the ruling coalition, to support lifting the veto in the parliament. Until now, Radev was one of the strongest supporters of the Bulgarian veto, and so are the socialists.

“It should be clear that the National Framework Position was developed and adopted by a decision of the Council of Ministers in 2019 and supported by the Bulgarian Parliament with a declaration,” Radev recalled. According to him, the National Framework Position on the subject should be drafted by the Council of Ministers as a result of the expertise of the Foreign Ministry, and approved by the parliament.

His comments come only a couple of days after he called the French proposal “foreign” and identified Prime Minister Kiril Petkov as a “courier” for such an external initiative. “The government never managed to prepare a Bulgarian proposal on the case with North Macedonia. It transferred everything to the National Assembly without stating a clear position. The prime minister cannot bring something into parliament without stating a position – he is not a courier, but a prime minister!” Radev said on Saturday (18 June).

(Krassen Nikolov | EURACTIV.bg)

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