Bulgaria says it remains opposed to EU membership talks for North Macedonia

SOFIA / SKOPJE – Bulgaria says it does not plan to lift its veto on the long-delayed accession negotiations between North Macedonia and the European Union over a linguistic and historical dispute with its neighbor.

“No change can be expected in the Bulgarian national position regarding the Republic of North Macedonia,” Bulgarian Acting Foreign Minister Svetlan Stoev said after meeting with visiting EU officials to Sofia on May 21.

Bulgarian President Rumen Radev said that EU enlargement in the Balkans must be based on achieving lasting results in establishing good neighborly relations.

“That is why we want to see not statements, but clear guarantees for our national security and for our national interests,” Radev’s office said.

In November 2020, Bulgaria blocked the start of EU membership negotiations with North Macedonia by refusing to approve the so-called negotiating framework with Skopje.

Unanimity is required from all EU members for the adoption of the negotiating framework.

Any further development on the issue before Bulgaria holds early parliamentary elections on July 11 seems unlikely.

European Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement Oliver Varhelyi and Portuguese Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, also visited North Macedonia after their talks in Sofia.

North Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said the two EU officials presented a proposal he said was a “good basis” for resolve his country’s dispute with Bulgaria.

“This draft solution does not touch or encroach on our Macedonian identity problems,” Zaev said, without revealing any details of the proposal.

Bulgaria, which joined the EU in 2007, wants Skopje to recognize that both its identity and its language have Bulgarian roots.

Skopje has long insisted that Macedonian is a distinct South Slavic language that is part of the country’s culture and national identity, while Sofia says Macedonian is a regional dialect of Bulgarian.

A mixed commission of historians was created to resolve the impasse, but failed to find common ground.

With reporting by AP

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