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News 05 Dec 12

Macedonia Accepts Bulgaria's Terms For Support

Skopje had agreed to the three terms that Sofia has set as preconditions for Bulgaria's support for Macedonia’s EU integration process.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Skopje

Macedonian Foreign Minister, Nikola Poposki

In a letter sent on Tuesday, Macedonia's Foreign Minister, Nikola Poposki, wrote to tell his Bulgarian counterpart, Nikolay Mladenov, that the proposals contained in Mladenov’s earlier letter were acceptable.

They “lay a solid foundation for a framework of activities that could strengthen relations between the two countries," Poposki said.

Last week, Mladenov outlined three consecutive steps that it wanted Macedonia to undertake as the price of its support for Macedonia's EU integration.

The first was a signed agreement on good neighbourly relations in accordance with EU standards and based on a 1999 declaration that both countries signed.

The second was building infrastructure to enhance co-operation and establishing working groups to strengthen relations in key areas.

The third was for the creation of a high-level council tasked with managing annual intergovernmental meetings.

"For that purpose, we will immediately start setting up a joint working group... to synthesize or define the goals and activities in an overall frame or roadmap,” Poposki said.

The minister added that after defining fields of mutual interest the two sides could start setting up a “high council” as Bulgaria suggested.

"We will shall overcome all open issues and differences through mutual respect and confidence, and respect for European values, democratic principles and human rights," the letter reads.

Since 2009 Macedonia has obtained annual recommendations for a start to EU membership talks in its European Commission progress reports.

But Europe has not offered a start date for the 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 potential obstacle for Macedonia when Bulgarian was underlining good neighbourly relations as a condition for its support in relation to the EU.

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 claimed Macedonia as part of Bulgaria. Bulgaria also occupied Macedonia in the Second World War.

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