Former US Ambassador to Bulgaria: Time for Harassment of North Macedonia Is Over

Politics | January 12, 2021, Tuesday // 09:11|  views


Bulgaria has made a big mistake, the time for harassment of North Macedonia is over, says former US Ambassador to Sofia James Pardew. On events in his homeland, he commented briefly and clearly: "Trump has disgraced us, he's finished."

Mr. Pardew, you're a military man and a diplomat. You saw what happened in Washington last week. How will the image of the United States be restored, and how will American society find the strength to overcome these events?

- Yes, President Trump's call on far-right thugs to attack the United States Congress was shocking to Americans and did serious damage to the Image of the United States around the world. But it also marked the end of a disastrous Trump administration. He broke his oath and disgraced the nation he represents. Trump is finished.

 Recovery will take time, but the United States will quickly return to competent democracy and governance. I wouldn't bet against the United States because of the failures of Trump’s presidency.

 As a former U.S. Ambassador to Bulgaria and one of the initiators of the Ohrid Agreement, you know the Balkans well. Do you keep track of the current tensions between Sofia and Skopje? What is your assessment and what is the official position of the US State Department?

 - I'm following events in the Balkans. And I feel close to both Bulgaria and North Macedonia. I think it is a mistake for the Bulgarian government to block the process that will lead to North Macedonia's accession to the European Union.

On the contrary - Bulgaria should be a champion of North Macedonia's EU membership, not an adversary. Because North Macedonia's entry into the EU is part of Bulgaria's long-term national interest.

 I am sure that the State Department supports the quick resolution of the problems between Bulgaria and North Macedonia, although the topic mainly concerns the European Union and its members.

 What can the outcome of the situation look like? Is it possible for the two countries to reach an agreement soon?

 - The long-term national interest of Bulgaria is to have good and partnership relations with its neighbors in the context of common democratic values. EU membership encourages this. Bulgaria and many people in North Macedonia share a common history and culture, but Bulgaria is a more prominent modern nation and in pursuit of its goals has the advantage of EU membership.

The two countries are natural allies and can work together for a prosperous future if they leave behind some of the less significant problems.

 Nationalists in Bulgaria watched as Greece used its EU membership to put pressure on North Macedonia. And they decided to implement the same strategy. But the time for harassment of North Macedonia is over.

 History and language issues are not significant enough to justify a hostile relationship between the two countries. After all, North Macedonia is a sovereign country. And no country should have the right to force another nation to change its history. Let historians and specialists clear the controversial points over time. Meanwhile, Sofia should support, not block, North Macedonia's ambitions for EU membership. Everything else is short-sighted.

 2021 is the year when we are finally expected to get rid of the pandemic. What is your forecast: should we expect more stability in the coming months? Or should we fear that the situation will become more complicated?

 I'm not an expert on pandemics, so I'm going to share a personal, not a scientific opinion. The Trump administration failed and showed no leadership during the pandemic. Now Americans are paying a high price for Donald Trump's incompetence.

 We all take part in a race between vaccinating the population and the continuing spread of the virus. But I am optimistic and believe that by the end of the year COVID-19 will be under control in most of the world. At the same time, however, I fear that the next few months will be difficult for many nations, including mine./DW


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Tags: Bulgaria, N. Macedonia, James Pardew


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