Bulgaria has threatened to block the start of EU talks for North Macedonia, unless the latter concedes to the “Bulgarian roots” of the Macedonian language and identity.
In a statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Bulgaria announces that it has informed the European Commission on Friday that it rejects the negotiating framework and the accompanying draft declaration for North Macedonia.
It claims that these documents prepared by the EC do not provide the necessary guarantees for the fulfillment of the conditions set by Bulgaria on North Macedonia.
The two conditions are for North Macedonia to acknowledge that the Macedonian language and national identity have Bulgarian foundations. Bulgaria claims that these measures are necessary to avoid any claims by North Macedonia about a Macedonian minority in Bulgaria.
Bulgaria maintains that the Macedonian language and identity were forged after WWII by communist parties ruling Yugoslavia and Bulgaria.
It now refuses to approve the negotiating framework with North Macedonia, a document that shows the path the country will follow in the EU integration, and marks the first step in starting EU talks. The negotiating framework must be approved unanimously by all EU member states.
Bulgaria wants the two conditions to be included in the document, while it announced that it won’t accept the EC suggestion to include their claims in a separate declaration of the Council of the EU.
“The Council Declaration is not a legally binding instrument and does not provide the legal guarantees sought by Bulgaria. We would have such guarantees if our demands were reflected in the text of the Negotiating Framework, which we insist on,” their statement highlights.
However, despite the notification of refusal for the EC, Bulgaria seems to leave an open window for negotiations when they thank the German Presidency of the Council of the EU and the Commissioner for Enlargement Oliver Varhelyi for the cooperation in search of a solution “that is still possible to reach despite the short deadlines.”
Also last year, North Macedonia solved a long-standing issue with Greece over the country’s name, and changed it to the current one. It was followed by Greece recognizing the country, ending its opposition to North Macedonia becoming the 30th member of NATO, and approving the opening of EU talks.
Similarly, issues put forward by Bulgaria also relate aspects of nationality and nationalism, once again threatening to hinder North Macedonia’s progress towards the European Union.
The threat comes ahead of the EU-Western Balkan summit in Sofia, Bulgaria on November 10, where leaders will discuss the region’s EU integration.
The Negotiating Framework is expected to be discussed on November 17 by the EU ministers of foreign affairs, which means ten more days for the two countries to reach an agreement.