Sofia wants EU to take its side in dispute with Skopje

Radev reminded that 120,000 Bulgarian citizens are residing in North Macedonia, who are also citizens of the EU. [EPA-EFE/JOHANNA GERON]

Bulgaria expects effective actions from EU institutions to promote the values ​​of democracy and respect for human rights in the Republic of North Macedonia, Bulgarian President Rumen Radev said during his meeting on Tuesday with EU Enlargement Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi. The meeting was not followed by a media briefing and Várhelyi left for Skopje later the same day.

Radev said that 120,000 Bulgarian citizens reside in North Macedonia, who are also citizens of the EU, and said Sofia relies on the support of the EU institutions for the effective respect of their rights.

The president told Várhelyi that North Macedonia had instilled “a perverse image of Bulgaria in textbooks, museums and monuments, as well as with regard to the rights of the country’s citizens who openly express their Bulgarian self-determination.”

“The declarations and promises in the dialogue with the Republic of North Macedonia no longer work and Bulgaria expects clear legally binding decisions that will lead to sustainable and irreversible results,” said Radev.

The Bulgarian president said that new treaty commitments would speed up the EU integration process for Skopje. He recalled that the 2017 Neighborhood Agreement was not being implemented and blamed Skopje for continuing problems with hate speech.

EU Presidency sources told EURACTIV that Várhelyi’s visit aimed at checking whether there was a change in Sofia’s position before the forthcoming European Council. The message is that there will be no such change unless Skopje agrees to sign an annexe to the Neighborhood Agreement.

Bulgaria will hold both parliamentary and presidential elections on 14 November, meaning the earliest opportunity to warm ties with Skopje would be in early December, though this would need a stable government in Sofia, a scenario that seems unlikely.

Earlier, North Macedonia’s PM Zoran Zaev voiced optimism that Bulgaria could approve Skopje’s negotiating framework as early as December.

“We continue to build friendly relations with Bulgaria because we need a solution to enter the EU and fulfil our second equally important goal, after NATO membership,” Zaev said during a TV debate on Channel 5 with the leader of the main opposition party VMRO-DPMNE, Hristijan Mickoski.

(Krassen Nikolov | EURACTIV.bg)

Subscribe to our newsletters

Subscribe