Berlin on a mediation mission between Skopje and Sofia

Berlin on a mediation mission between Skopje and Sofia

At the invitation of German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and German Foreign Minister Michael Roth, a working meeting was held between Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs Nikola Dimitrov and Foreign Minister Bujar Osmani with Bulgarian Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva.

The Government of North Macedonia has confirmed that the talks in the German capital are aimed at finding ways to bring the positions of Skopje and Sofia closer and to allow the start of negotiations between the Republic of North Macedonia and the EU under the German Presidency.

“The purpose of the meeting is to consider the possibilities of solutions under the Friendship Agreement, in order to have a successful joint chairmanship of the Berlin Process for the Western Balkans and joint success in the EU integration process”, the government explained.

In yesterday’s edition of the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, an analysis was published, showing that there is currently a controversy in Brussels that could have serious consequences for the future of EU enlargement, alluding to the Bulgarian disposition towards Skopje.

FAZ considers that the Bulgarian claim that there is only one “historical truth”, ie theirs, and that it must be firmly stated in the EU accession negotiations, does not correspond to the 21st century; Sofia’s position is a matter of concern for the whole region.

The German newspaper explains that the basic decision on whether North Macedonia will be allowed to start negotiations will be taken by EU foreign ministers on November 10, as it must be prepared by the ambassadors of the Member States. Bulgaria can exclude these proceedings because decisions are taken by consensus. Therefore, Germany, it is said, demands from the two countries to resolve such bilateral disputes and not to include them in the negotiating framework.

Foreign Minister Heiko Mas and Europe Minister Michael Roth have been working on such a solution for weeks, speaking by telephone with their counterparts in the two capitals. EU diplomats are optimistic that such a solution will be found, FAZ writes.

Bulgarian Defence Minister and VMRO-BND leader Krasimir Karakachanov, meanwhile, claimed yesterday that there was no diplomatic pressure on Bulgaria from Germany and that Sofia would not back down from Skopje’s demands for recognition of Bulgarian history and of her identity if they want to start negotiations with the EU.

“We will see what happens in a week. The choice of whether to join the EU is theirs. They will not become members of the European Union with a blow to the Communist International on the table”, Karakachanov told Bulgaria’s national television BTV.

In an interview with “24 Hours”, the Bulgarian historian Ivan Ilchev, former rector of the University of Sofia “St. Clement of Ohrid” and current member of the Bulgarian team in the joint Macedonian-Bulgarian committee on historical and educational issues, believes that on the issue of the Macedonian language Bulgaria is fighting a lost cause, but not when it comes to history, which, as he says, is indisputable.

“The Bulgarian disagreement over the Macedonian language is not clear to European public opinion. According to European public opinion, if there is a state, it also has a language. From this point of view, the Macedonian language is a lost position for us”, Ilchev says.

He appears skeptical that the disputed issues between the two countries will be resolved by November 10, when Bulgaria and North Macedonia will co-chair the Berlin Process, Deutsche Welle reports.

The scholars of North Macedonia and Bulgaria sent a joint letter yesterday to the Prime Ministers of North Macedonia and Bulgaria, Zoran Zaev and Boyko Borissov, the Foreign Ministers of the two countries Ekaterina Zaharieva and Bujar Osmani and the Deputy Prime Minister of Europe Dimitrov, inviting them to cooperate. As for the differences and disputes over historical issues, according to the signatories of the letter, it would be enough to create an atmosphere more open to dialogue. They are concerned that through negotiations between two countries to seek agreement on a single historical truth, when modern historiography has long accepted the existence of different interpretations, as a result of different perspectives.

“The work of the Joint Historical Committee so far shows that it is possible to reach an agreement on even the most difficult issues for our two countries, but it is a long process and no realistically short deadlines should be set. At the same time, this process should not be carried out under pressure, which would discredit the compromises and agreements reached. “Any narrative of the national past is subject to re-examination and re-evaluation, but should take place in open academic and social discussions”, the letter said.

The Council of Ambassadors, which includes former diplomats, described Bulgaria’s threat of a possible blockade of North Macedonia on its path to the EU as “obscene” in a statement to the media, “raising obscene questions in the form of trading of identity, language and facts from history”.

President Stevo Pendarovski and Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said last week after a Security Council meeting on tackling the COVID-19 crisis that there have not been and will not be any negotiations on identity and language./ibna