Nationalist Victory in North Macedonia's Elections Signals Trouble for Bulgaria

Opinions | May 4, 2024, Saturday // 11:00|  views

Recent developments in North Macedonia suggest a further decline in relations with Bulgaria, with the presidential elections serving as a litmus test for the sentiment towards Bulgaria within the country. The victory of nationalist opposition candidate Gordana Siljanovska-Davkova in the first round of voting signals a potentially more antagonistic stance towards Bulgaria, contrasting with the incumbent President Stevo Pendarovski's already strained relationship with Bulgaria.

Pendarovski's presidency has been marked by tensions with Bulgaria, characterized by accusations of harassment of the Macedonian minority in Bulgaria. However, compared to Siljanovska-Davkova and her VMRO-DPMNE party, Pendarovski's stance appears relatively moderate. Siljanovska-Davkova and VMRO-DPMNE have adopted an aggressive anti-Bulgarian stance, with rhetoric denouncing Bulgarian influence and rejecting the Treaty of Friendship Good Neighbourliness and Cooperation.

The strained relations between Bulgaria and North Macedonia have been a significant obstacle to North Macedonia's EU accession negotiations. The "French proposal," which seeks guarantees from North Macedonia regarding anti-Bulgarian rhetoric and treatment of citizens with Bulgarian self-awareness, has stalled progress in negotiations for nearly two years. Despite efforts to address these issues, rhetoric in North Macedonia continues to portray Bulgaria as a hindrance to European integration.

The growing popularity of VMRO-DPMNE and the disappointing performance of the ruling SDSM party in North Macedonia signal a shift towards more confrontational rhetoric towards Bulgaria. Campaigns for upcoming elections in North Macedonia are likely to exploit anti-Bulgarian sentiment, further straining bilateral relations.

The future trajectory of Bulgaria-North Macedonia relations remains uncertain, with the possibility of further deterioration looming. As political tensions continue to escalate, efforts to bridge the divide and foster cooperation between the two countries face significant challenges.

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Tags: north macedonia, Bulgaria, relations, elections


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