News 14 Feb 13

Bulgaria Says Ties to Macedonia Are Improving

Bulgaria and Macedonia have made progress in improving relations, the Bulgarian Prime Minister, Boyko Borisov, says, months after his country blocked Macedonia’s EU bid.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Skopje

Bulgarian PM, Boyko Borisov

Prime Minister Borisov said that this week he had a cordial telephone conversation with his Macedonian counterpart, Nikola Gruevski, and they both noted “great progress in negotiations on an agreement for good neighbourly relations”.

Borisov said he would meet Gruevski "in the near future" to discuss the treaty and other matters of mutual interest.

He also expressed interest in discussing economic topics, such as the construction of the planned Sofia-Skopje-Tirana highway.

Negotiations, launched in January, are expected to result in the signing of a friendship treaty between Macedonia and Bulgaria.

Bulgaria has insisted on the treaty after it joined Greece in blocking Macedonia’s EU bid in December 2012.

At the EU Council of Ministers, Bulgaria said it could not support the bid of a country that had failed to nurture good relations.

It thus joined Greece in preventing Macedonia from obtaining a start date for EU accession talks. [Greece objects to Macedonia's name, saying it implies territorial pretensions to the Greek province of Macedonia].

Bulgaria said it objected to what it saw as discriminatory attitudes towards ethnic Bulgarians in Macedonia, accusing Skopje of creating an anti-Bulgarian atmosphere in the country.

The EU Council concluded that any decision on opening accession talks would be based on the report of the European Commission, which is to be published in spring 2013.

That Commission report will particularly focus on whether Macedonia has made genuine steps forward towards reaching a deal with Greece on its name and on improving relations with both Greece and Bulgaria, as well as on reforms progress inside the country.

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