Bulgarian President Rumen Radev has hinted that he could call a referendum on Bulgaria’s veto on North Macedonia’s EU integration but denied he would discuss the matter with French President Emmanuel Macron.
Radev’s comments come after Bulgarian media reported that Macron invited Radev and Prime Minister Kiril Petkov to a meeting, though this was based on unofficial information. Petkov also denies such an invitation has been issued.
France and the European Commission are insisting the issue be resolved soon. France insists the matter be resolved before the end of its EU Council presidency on 30 June, but the chances of Bulgaria dropping its veto before then are small.
Radev’s position is that the veto should not be lifted before North Macedonia includes Bulgarians in its constitution. “There is no progress on the issue between Sofia and Skopje, so there are no conditions for my visit to Paris,” Radev said on Wednesday.
“I appreciate the commitment of our European partners, but I want to see real results,” Radev said, adding that the final decisions are made not by parliament but by the people.
Petkov, for his part, recently pointed to the lack of progress in resolving disputes between the two countries, noting that the veto should be lifted with a decision from parliament.
According to Bulgarian law, the president can single-handedly convene a national referendum, the result of which would be binding on parliament if the legal conditions for turnout were met.
Convening a referendum on the North Macedonia issue would crowd a public agenda that is dominated by the war in Ukraine and high inflation. 70% of Bulgarians oppose any concessions to Macedonians.
Public opinion polls in North Macedonia show a similar picture, and most citizens oppose concessions in Bulgaria’s favour.