The New Foreign Minister of Bulgaria on the Dispute with North Macedonia

Diplomacy | December 14, 2021, Tuesday // 14:33|  views


Bulgaria's position on North Macedonia will adhere to the 2017 Good Neighbour Agreement and the 2019 National Assembly Declaration.

This is stated in a statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and is present in media comments of the new Foreign Minister Teodora Genchovska after the ceremony of handing over power to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Her comment from the event, which, according to BNR, was dominated by North Macedonia, leaves the door open for the government to develop its own approach to the dispute with Skopje.

The ceremony took place the day before the General Affairs Council, which, in Genchovska's words, "will not change at this stage". Skopje believes there is a possibility of breaking through and lifting the veto that delayed Macedonia's talks with the EU between today's council and mid-January. Recently, Foreign Minister Bujar Osmani announced that a longer delay could lead to a "frozen conflict".


The difference between a position and a declaration

In her comment, Genchovska did not mention one of the pillars of Bulgarian policy towards Skopje in the last two years - the Framework Position of the last GERB government, which described in detail a long list of Bulgarian demands for North Macedonia. In the position adopted in October 2019, the demands were divided into stages that must be implemented - for the First Intergovernmental Conference, for the Second Intergovernmental Conference and for the continuation of negotiations.

The declaration of the parliament, supporting the Framework Position, is much shorter and with specific conditions, of which only two points would be controversial at the moment. They are:

- to adhere strictly to Art. 8 of the Treaty, namely to "the objective, based on authentic and evidence-based historical sources for scientific interpretation of historical events";

- to adhere strictly to the clause established and ratified by the parliaments of both countries with regard to the official language of the Republic of North Macedonia.

It is the persistent use of the term "historical truth" and the desire to avoid the use of "Macedonian" that have been among the factors fueling tensions between Sofia and Skopje since last year.


The feasible points

In parallel with maintaining the Bulgarian position, however, the current team of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has developed the so-called plan 5 + 1 with requests to North Macedonia. Last week, Skopje's special envoy to Sofia, Vlado Buckovski, confirmed to Dnevnik that the Macedonian side has already sent a response to Bulgaria's proposals - which coincide with the less controversial points of the declaration.

At the same time, there is or can be agreed on the other points in the Parliament's declaration, according to North Macedonia, as their significance coincides with the points in 5 + 1:

- guarantees for the implementation of the Good Neighbour Agreement;

- waiver of claims for interference and "Macedonian minority";

- rehabilitation of repressed people with Bulgarian self-consciousness;

- implementation of the agreements by the historical commission;

- end of the speech of hatred towards Bulgaria and the citizens of North Macedonia with Bulgarian self-consciousness, "including in the media, inscriptions on monuments, memorial plaques, etc.";

- to assist in the search, restoration and protection of the Bulgarian military monuments and cemeteries on the territory of the Republic of North Macedonia in the spirit of European values.

The last point was not part of "5 + 1", but is not formally disputed. The issue of the "Macedonian minority" remains delicate; Skopje is ready to reaffirm its non-interference in Bulgaria's internal affairs, but Bulgarian politicians have argued for years that the Macedonian side encourages the idea of ​​having such a minority through European organizations. In addition, Macedonian politicians have recently toyed with the idea that the recognition of the Macedonian minority is the condition for the inclusion of Bulgarians in the country's constitution.

Stoev said the Macedonian side's responses to 5 + 1 had been delayed and that he declined to comment so far - the demands were announced by the caretaker government in the summer, and the reaction came in November. "On the one hand, every effort is being made to put additional pressure in the last days before this week's European Council to resolve an issue that has not been resolved throughout the caretaker government," he was quoted as saying. BNR.


"Full transparency to the public"

Minister Teodora Genchovska announced that she will work in full openness to the public. Regular briefings for the media will be organized every month, at which information about the work done by the ministry will be provided, the announcement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs continues.

Stoev himself summed up what he considers to have been successful since taking office on May 12, 2021 - the organized elections abroad twice a year in a pandemic, the evacuation during the crisis in Afghanistan, the ongoing evacuations related to the COVID-19 pandemic, of compatriots abroad, as well as the intensification of negotiations with North Macedonia.

On the latter topic, Stoev's team managed to divert attention in the dialogue from difficult-to-accept historical issues that have raised degrees in the last year to other specific demands (in which the other controversial request - to refrain from "Macedonian" - was not mentioned).

"I can proudly say that thanks to the professional team of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and as a result of the tireless work of our diplomatic missions, as in Skopje, Brussels and other European countries, we have managed to change the view of many European countries regarding this bilateral dialogue.”, said Svetlan Stoev, who mentioned the Framework Position of the Boyko Borissov government. "Two tracks were worked on - bilateral with the Republic of North Macedonia and talks with our European partners. As a result of the negotiations, we became a subject. I can not agree with some statements that Bulgarian diplomacy in these months was invisible or she didn't do her job."


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Tags: north macedonia, Bulgaria, position, Teodora Genchovska, foreign affairs


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