By Clive Leviev-Sawyer of The Sofia Globe
Bulgaria’s caretaker Prime Minister, Marin Raykov, said on March 29 2013 that he wanted his country’s common history with the neighboring Macedonian republic “not to separate us”.
Raykov, a former deputy foreign minister and ambassador, is head of government in Bulgaria pending the formation of a governing coalition after Bulgaria’s May 12 ahead-of-term parliamentary elections.
Relations over the years between Sofia and Skopje have been complicated, with Bulgaria joining in blocking the granting of an EU negotiations start date pending the former Yugoslav republic making progress on good-neighborly relations.
At the same time, on leaving office with the rest of the government in early March, former foreign minister Nikolai Mladenov indicated that the finalization of a good-neighborly relations agreement with Skopje had been close and he was disappointed that this task had not been completed. Had the government served out its full term, it would have remained in office until around the elections that would have been in July 2013.
Raykov, speaking to a local television station on March 29, said that Sofia’s policy on Macedonia was European.
The logic was very clear and persuasive, he said. All Bulgarians knew that they were brothers with the Slavs in Macedonia, “we share common history and language traditions”.
This is confirmed by the fact that a lot of monuments to prominent Bulgarian national heroes are being built in the centre of Skopje, he said.
It was very important that these common features in the past should not separate the two countries, Raykov said, and added “what is more important is to be able to sit at one table, celebrate together our common history”.
“I can make an attempt in this area, but its success depends not only on me,” Raykov said.
Earlier this week, at a meeting with Nato Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Raykov expressed the position that Bulgaria stands firmly behind the candidacy of Macedonia for accession to the Euro-Atlantic family, given that the two countries share a common historical memory. “We always have worked for the accession of the Republic of Macedonia, but it is also essential for political will on its part to be shown along with goodwill towards its neighbors”.
Bulgaria, which was the first country to recognize Macedonia under its constitutional name, concluded a joint declaration on neighborly relations in 1999, which was signed by the two countries’ prime ministers of the time, Ivan Kostov and Ljubco Georgievski.
Some weeks ago, not long after taking office as caretaker Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Raykov said that he had participated as deputy foreign minister in finalising the wording of the 1999 declaration.
At the time that Raykov became PM and Foreign Minister, media in Skopje said that, with the new Bulgarian government in place, authorities there were ready and waiting for a continuation of talks with Sofia on the good-neighborly agreement.