OP/ED: The unconventional game of Radev, Ivanov and Meta

OP/ED: The unconventional game of Radev, Ivanov and Meta

The statements and reactions of the Presidents of Bulgaria, fYROMacedonia and Albania that are made during a time of effort towards the resolution of their countries’ long-standing differences with the Hellenic Republic have caused a stir.

A few hours after the statements by Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov and Foreign minister Ekaterina Zaharieva who said that the name issue between fYROMacedonia and Greece is a bilateral matter and Bulgaria wishes to see it resolved, the Bulgarian President Rumen Radev, while in Skopje, said that, “the solution to the name issue should not contain a geographical definition that would include territorial parts of Bulgaria”.

Two different approaches from the political leadership of Bulgaria on the same subject. But why is the Bulgarian President’s stance different?

Rumen Radev belongs to a different political body from Boyko Borissov as he was elected President supported by the Socialist Party as an independent. At a time when Borissov’s extreme right-wing partner is causing shocks in government cohesiveness, Radev is trying to exploit the momentum politically.

The Bulgarian Presidency ends in 4 months and many analysts believe that there will be a call to the polls with the end of the six-month presidency. Intervening on issues relating to the country’s policy amidst the presidency would be outside the President’s military culture. However, intervening in a case that indirectly concerns its own country, such as the fYROMacedonian name issue, is easier.

What should not be left out from the overall picture is that there are still nationalistic calls on the part of Bulgaria, although relations with Greece since April 2015 have been fully normalised. On the other hand, the European upgrading of Bulgaria is the key political matter for Boyko Borissov’s government, that wants a stronger presence and influence in the Balkan region, creating a “competition” with Greece.

Gjorge Ivanov, with his political interventions, acts as the spearhead of the party he comes from, VMRO-DPMNE, of the hard-core “nationalist” former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski. The fYROMacedonian President is trying to cause problems to the Zoran Zaev government every time he is given the opportunity. The most recent example of his behaviour is the issue of the law on the use of the Albanian language as the second official language in the country and its return (of the law) to the Parliament.

Ivanov, both at his meeting with his Bulgarian counterpart Rumen Radev and with the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has set red lines in the effort to find a solution to the name issue that undermines relations between fYROMacedonia and Greece. At his meeting with Radev he noted that negotiations will continue at the UN, while Athens and Skopje have agreed on talking directly with each other.

At his meeting with his Turkish counterpart, Ivanov noted that Greece’s demands for a change of name, identity, language and the constitution of his country did not help to solve the problem, thus setting red lines in the negotiations.

Albanian President Ilir Meta, in a more communicative but substantial move, denied the request by the Albanian Foreign Ministry for authorisation to negotiate the demarcation of the sea border between Greece and Albania, thus putting barriers in the latest effort to resolve the differences between the two countries.

Ilir Meta, although nominated for the President’s post by Prime Minister Edi Rama, remains the founder of the Socialist Movement for Inclusion and i still opposed to the Socialist Party, confirming it whenever he is given the chance. Expecting to be politically active in the coming period, he is shaping his own agenda to confront the current Prime Minister Edi Rama.

Journalists, analysts and politicians, via their unclear references connect Turkey and Russia -both of whom have interests in the region- with the above mentioned moves of the three Presidents. It would be a lie to say that I know these rumours are true. However, if Turkey and Russia wanted to be involved in issues that concern the Balkans, they would not have put their money on people without real power in their hands, namely the three Presidents in focus. Instead, they would invest in governmental figures that could influence political choices for their benefit. Though, all this remains to be either verified or denied. Developments are rapid and unpredictable…/IBNA