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News 30 Nov 12

Bulgaria Sets Terms For Aiding Macedonia’s EU Bid

Sofia has urged its neighbour to take three clear steps if it wants to secure Bulgarian support for Macedonia’s EU integration process.

Darko Duridanski
BIRN
Skopje
Nikolay Mladenov

Bulgaria has set its neighbour three conditions in return for its support in aiding Macedonian integration into the European Union.

Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nikolay Mladenov sent a letter to his Macedonian counterpart Nikola Poposki in which he says that relations between the two countries are at a low level and voices concern about anti-Bulgarian rhetoric in Skopje.

“Such a policy of division reflects a long bygone era and belongs firmly to the past,” the minister’s letter said.

“Our moral, historical and political obligation is to reverse current negative trends, and bring your country closer to the EU membership that it desires,” the same letter added.

Mladenov outlined three consecutive steps that it wanted Macedonia to undertake.

The first one is signing an agreement on good neighbourly relations and co-operation in accordance with the EU standards and based on a 1999 declaration that both countries signed.

The second is building necessary infrastructure for enhanced co-operation by establishing working groups to strengthen relations in key areas.

The third proposal is for the creation of a high-level council in the format of annual intergovernmental meetings.

Macedonian Foreign Minister Nikola Poposki said he did not see the Bulgarian initiatives as “conditions”. According to him, they were requests for closer cooperation.

“The key line is the fact that Bulgaria has supported Macedonia at key moments. Mladenov himself underlines this. That is why I don’t see any reason for Bulgaria to change its approach to Macedonia’s European integration process,” Poposki said.

Bulgaria’s head of diplomacy recalled that Bulgaria was the first country to recognize Macedonia’s independence.

Since 2009 Macedonia every October obtains recommendation for a start to EU membership talks as part of a generally positive European Commission progress report.

But Europe has not offered a start date for talks owing to a Greek blockade related to the dispute over Macedonia’s name.

Greece insists that Macedonia’s name implies territorial claims to its own northern province, also called Macedonia.

In 2012 Bulgaria emerged as new obstacle for Macedonia. Bulgarian politicians also underlined the good neighborly relations as a condition for support for a date for talks.

Bulgaria was the first country to recognise Macedonia when it proclaimed its independence from Yugoslavia in 1991.

Moreover, Bulgaria, unlike Greece, recognises its neighbour under its constitutional name, the “Republic of Macedonia”.

But Sofia does not recognise the existence of a Macedonian language, separate from Bulgarian, and many Bulgarian historians still maintain that Macedonians are ethnic Bulgarians.

Bulgarian nationalists in the past long claimed Macedonia as part of Bulgaria and only began to abandon the idea following Bulgaria's defeat during the Balkan Wars of 1912 and 1913. Bulgaria also occupied Macedonia in the Second World War.

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