Negotiations between Sofia and Skopje will continue until the last minute

Negotiations between Sofia and Skopje will continue until the last minute

North Macedonia is still in a precarious position regarding the start of EU accession talks and it is unknown whether Bulgaria will use its veto. The meeting of the Council of Ministers for European Affairs has been rescheduled for November 17, so there is still room for talks between Skopje and Sofia with a view to adopting the negotiating framework. Yesterday’s talks in Sofia, as assessed by participants in the process from Skopje, are a good basis for continuing further to overcome misunderstandings with Bulgaria.

“We remain committed to finding a solution and working together as good neighbors committed to a common European future”, the government said after yesterday’s meeting in Sofia, where a delegation led by Prime Minister Zoran Zaev attended the Western Balkans Summit as part of the Berlin Process. North Macedonia and Bulgaria were co-chairs of the process.

“The successful Berlin Process gives a positive impetus and encouragement to the process. This is complemented by the intensive involvement of the German Presidency. After today’s working meetings in Sofia we remain committed to finding a solution. This is important both for North Macedonia and Bulgaria. They want a solution, we want it too. We are working together as good neighbors committed to a common European future”, government sources say.

“If we have a positive solution, it will be good for North Macedonia, Bulgaria, for the whole of Europe and for the whole region of the Balkans, but otherwise”, government sources say, “it will be a common failure for all”.

Prime Ministers Zoran Zaev and Boyko Borissov spoke at yesterday’s summit in Sofia, while German Chancellor Angela Merkel took part in a teleconference, stressing that the Berlin process is also about reconciling misunderstandings and legacies from the past.

“For the region, what I have to say is that you have to agree with each other. Do not forget, because it is very important, Merkel told Zaev and Borissov.

North Macedonian Foreign Minister Bujar Osmani said yesterday that it was still uncertain whether EU accession talks would begin in December and whether Bulgaria would use its veto right.

“The decision is taken by the Council of Ministers for European Affairs and Foreign Affairs, which was supposed to take place on 10 November, but was postponed by the Presidency initially for 17 November, thus giving additional days for Member States to coordinate on the text of the framework. I cannot prejudge one hundred percent at this time what the decision of the 27 Member States will be. All I know is that we will work until the last minute of the last day to be able to complete it,” Osmani said in a televised interview.

According to him, yesterday in Sofia they had an open and constructive discussion on all issues; they openly discussed all the concerns and sensitivities of both sides regarding the process, the expectations, the achievements, the opportunities, the plans, the alternatives, the options… This, according to Osmani, was a good basis for moving forward.

The Foreign Minister stressed that the German Presidency is working in principle to find a solution, taking into account the sensitivities of both sides.

“As a candidate country, we feel strong support from the German Presidency and this encourages us not to miss the opportunity. The German presidency is closely monitoring our region”, Osmani said.

In Sofia, he said, the demands of the Bulgarian side were also discussed and, according to Osmani, they believe that the work of the committees was not enough to say that they are yielding results.

“We spoke openly. The use of mutual communication between groups continues today. We did an overview of what has been achieved. However, there are some steps forward to overcome the concerns. We talked about decent talks between the two countries. Negotiations continue until the last minute before the summit. I guess you are waiting for me to report in detail today. I will not oblige, because I said that this is a project that is in progress and we can have a negative impact and it is very important for all of us”, Osmani said.

According to him, it is necessary to have internal cohesion in the country to resolve a complex issue like this and he added that he believes that the opposition should be included and that it is open for meetings. However, he noted that he has not yet decided whether to attend a meeting of the parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee on relations with Bulgaria, on Thursday.

“I’m not sure if it is time to express public opinion”, Osmani explained.

He assessed as a significant leap the mutual agreement already reached for five historical periods and three people and added that in the past 70 years no agreement was reached on any issue. For Goce Delchev, he said, historians must decide what is acceptable to both sides, not politicians.

As to whether a German expert could take part in the work of the committees, Osmani said that such assistance would be welcome, as already discussed, by experts with experience from similar experiences or differences, such as German-Polish or German-Czech, but so far there is no consensus on this.

Commenting on talks between the delegations of North Macedonia and Bulgaria in Sofia, Bulgarian Prime Minister and Defence Minister Krasimir Karakachanov said last night that Bulgaria could not compromise on issues related to the Bulgarian history and identity of all people who we call part of our common history.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs of North Macedonia, Bujar Osmani, noted that he saw only part of Karakachanov’s statement in which he stated that the country has an ultimatum to accept Bulgarian demands by Friday, and said that the pre-election atmosphere is stronger than the politicians and stressed that there is no such deadline.

The next deadline, he said, is November 17, when the Council of Ministers meeting is, and if the problem has not been resolved by then, it remains to be completed by December./ibna