An avalanche of reactions from North Macedonian officials was sparked yesterday by a statement of Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Krasimir Karakachanov that Bulgaria would block the first Intergovernmental Conference of North Macedonia with the EU, if the Joint Committee has not reached an agreement on open historical issues. Mostly everyone believes that a common ground will be found with Bulgaria, in the spirit of friendship and respect for the Good Neighbourly Agreement.
The Prime Minister of North Macedonia Zoran Zaev during his visit to the National Service expressed the belief that a solution will be found with Bulgaria and that both sides will emerge victorious and that history is important, but it must be the starting point for the future.
“We have shown that we have the ability to resolve issues. We found solutions to important issues. We have files, we will sit down and take them out transparently and publicly. History is important, but it must be the starting point for the future. We will find a solution. Both sides need to be winners”, Zaev said.
“I am sending a message to neighbouring Bulgaria that we are ready to answer the question about Goce Delchev. If we are hurt, this is not a friendship. I believe we will find a solution with our friend the Republic of Bulgaria”, Zaev said.
Asked if they could accept that Goce Delchev was Bulgarian in order to join the EU, Zaev said we should not allow exclusions.
“We need friendships with friends and I believe we will find a solution. With what you said, Bulgaria is winning. Both sides must be happy. Let us not defeat Bulgaria, nor North Macedonia, and the Macedonians who speak Macedonian. They have no problem with this project. There are no dilemmas, they speak very often about the Macedonian language. “We are friends, we will find a solution”, Zaev pointed out.
Asked by a journalist if an agreement is not reached with Bulgaria, Zaev expressed confidence that an agreement would be reached.
Bulgarian Defence Minister Krasimir Karakachanov said yesterday that the diplomacy of North Macedonia has been avoiding resolving problems for three years since the signing of the Good Neighborhood Agreement and expects the EU to defend her. According to a Sofia official, North Macedonia is avoiding the meetings of historians in order not to face the resolution of the issue of Goce Deltchev and, therefore, shows that it has no desire to conduct an honest dialogue.
“Last November, ten months ago, they stopped the work of the Commission to examine the historical problems. We have said a hundred times in the last ten months that if no agreement is reached on these issues, Bulgaria will react to the first intergovernmental conference until the issues are resolved. This is the position of Bulgaria. And this is made very clear to Skopje”, Karakachanov said.
Asked if that meant Bulgaria would block the first intergovernmental conference, Karakachanov said: “Of course”.
Karakachanov declined to say whether Bulgaria would continue to worry about the Macedonian language before the negotiating framework was approved. According to him, the problem is in Skopje, not in Sofia. Karakachanov said that no one from the EU could pressure and instruct Bulgaria to change its position and that only one side could make compromises and the other could do whatever it wanted.
Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs Nikola Dimitrov also reacted to Karakachanov’s statement yesterday, stressing that the friendship agreement with neighbouring Bulgaria speaks of the common history between the two peoples and that in the 21st century in Europe, the right in self-determination and self-expression cannot be denied.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued an official position that the Republic of North Macedonia, as before, will continue with intensive communication and political consultation with the Republic of Bulgaria and all relevant stakeholders within the EU, where the main message will be that It is extremely important a complex dialogue process that presupposes the rapprochement and building of friendship, through mutual respect, as two neighboring European countries.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs emphasizes that in this sense, respect for identity and dignity, European integration and good neighborly relations are completely complementary and mutual interests.
“The European integration of the whole region is in the interest of both countries and is constantly emphasized by the official representatives of both countries. The Republic of Bulgaria has so far supported the European and Euro-Atlantic accession of the Republic of North Macedonia and we expect this support to continue in the future, the Foreign Ministry said.
It is added that for all possible differences on certain issues, the Friendship, Good Neighbourliness and Cooperation Agreement is precisely the framework for resolving long-standing bilateral differences in the interpretation of historical issues that have plagued relations between North Macedonia and Bulgaria for decades.
“We remain fully committed to its implementation, which is a bilateral obligation for both countries”, the foreign ministry said in a statement.
The chairman of the North Macedonia team at the North Macedonia-Bulgaria Joint Committee on Historical and Educational Issues, Dragi Gorgiev, said that the way the talks would continue and whether a solution would be reached depend on the constructive attitude of both sides.
“The committee is not a political, but an academic body and operates in the spirit of scientific principles. Absolute political statements are counterproductive, creating tension, pressure and mistrust”, Gorgiev said.
Meanwhile, diplomats from EU member states met on Wednesday to discuss a draft negotiating framework for North Macedonia. The technical discussions within the EU will continue today./ibna