By Clive Leviev-Sawyer of the Sofia Globe
Bulgarian President Rossen Plevneliev has written to Gjorge Ivanov, his counterpart in Skopje, accepting his proposal that a 1999 declaration on bilateral relations be transformed into an agreement on good neighbourly relations between Bulgaria and FYR Macedonia.
Amid frequently difficult bilateral relations, the issue of formalising a good neighbourliness agreement has been on the agenda between the two countries for years and has been cited as key to Skopje’s stated ambitions of taking the country towards European Union membership.
In the past week, there was an exchange of messages between the two heads of state on a possible move to achieve a deal through revisiting the 1999 agreement.
According to a statement by Plevneliev’s office on May 17, the Bulgarian President wrote to Ivanov: “I readily accept your proposal the Declaration of the Prime Ministers of the Republic of Bulgaria and the Republic of Macedonia of 1999 to be transformed into an Agreement on Good Neighbourly Relations and Cooperation.”
Plevneliev said: “I am confident that by strictly following the clauses of this agreement, our two countries will show the political will together to be part of the large European family, sharing the values of democracy.”
He said that he supported the position of his Macedonian counterpart that “relations between our two brotherly countries should be developed on the basis of European values and standards of neighbourliness and co-operation.”
Plevneliev said that he was expecting, as soon as possible after the formation of the new government of Macedonia, for there to be a meeting for clarification of technical parameters of the treaty and the relevant procedures to be organised for its signing in the city of Sofia.
“I am confident that this instrument will provide an additional incentive to increase co-operation between our two countries in all fields ,” Plevneliev said .
Plevneliev agreed on the need for further development and strengthening of regional co-operation in the interest of the general desire for connectivity of road, rail and energy networks in Southeastern Europe. He said through the efforts of all stakeholders, real economic progress could be achieved in the region.
“Your proposal for a joint pilgrimage to the tomb of St. Constantine Cyril the Philosopher on May 24 this year in Rome corresponds to our desire together to celebrate our common history, noting historical figures and events common to both countries,” Plevneliev said, but added that this year the two delegations would visit Rome at different times.
The Bulgarian President noted that the Bulgarian ambassador to Italy would venerate together with the delegation of FYR Macedonia at the tomb of St. Cyril, and therefore expected and the Macedonian ambassador, in turn, would join the Bulgarian delegation.
“I sincerely hope that this practice will become a tradition, and it is important that next year it be accompanied by a joint audience with His Holiness the Pope. We expect that a positive step in creating an atmosphere of trust and co-operation would be to have a joint celebration of Ilinden Uprising respectively in the Republic of Bulgaria and the Republic of Macedonia, starting this year,” Plevneliev said.
In his letter, Bulgaria’s President confirmed the support that Bulgaria was ready to provide to FYR Macedonia on the way to its integration into European and Euro-Atlantic structures, the statement by Plevneliev’s office said.