The dispute between Bulgaria and North Macedonia could escalate into a “frozen conflict” if outstanding issues are not resolved in the near future, Foreign Minister Bujar Osmani told Bulgarian television BTV in an interview.
The two countries are currently locked in a dispute over culture, heritage, and language. Sofia has vetoed the Macedonian accession to the EU linked to Albania, keeping both countries in the bloc’s waiting room. Bulgaria demands changes to the Macedonian constitution, but Skopje argues it has made many concessions already, and EU accession should progress with other issues to be ironed out later.
“I think that in the future there will be less and less strength and energy and courage for any politician to deal with this topic bravely. That is why I am afraid that in a month or two, this will turn into a frozen conflict that will last for years, with all the consequences that will arise from our relations, our internal policy and the opportunities for the region,” the foreign minister said.
“I am convinced that in the second half of this year, we will not have the same strength to be fully committed, with all the energy of the government, to resolve this issue as we are doing now”, Osmani added.
The European Union is committed to continuing efforts to start negotiations before the end of the French EU Council presidency at a crucial time, said EU Enlargement Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi after meeting with Prime Minister Dimitar Kovačevski on Wednesday (27 April).
The EU official also stressed that he remains committed exclusively to the principles of respect for European values and talks based on respect and dignity, as agreed with Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov, in establishing dialogue and building relations on this basis.
North Macedonia has fulfilled its obligations and continues to act fully in line with the policies of the EU, said Prime Minister Kovačevski, adding that his country has once again shown that it is a worthy partner of European countries and deserves the final holding of the first intergovernmental conference with the EU.