Foreign Minister Zaharieva: Bulgaria Still Unable to Approve Negotiating Framework for North Macedonia

Sofia, November 3 (BTA) - "Despite progress made in Berlin,
Bulgaria is still unable to approve the negotiating framework
for the Republic of North Macedonia," said Deputy Prime Minister
 Ekaterina Zaharieva at a news conference here on Tuesday. She
was speaking after meeting with the Foreign Minister and the
Minister for European Affairs of the Republic of North Macedonia
 in Berlin on Monday evening.

"We are working actively with the German EU Presidency and our
colleagues from the Republic of North Macedonia to reflect
Bulgaria's remaining demands in the negotiating framework,
related to guarantees and an action plan for the implementation
of the 2017 Friendship Treaty [between Bulgaria and North
Macedonia], as well as the Republic of North Macedonia clearly
stating, both unilaterally and in the negotiating framework,
that no minority claims will be supported by state
institutions," she said.

"We have once again mobilized our entire resources in order to
find the necessary mechanisms. Bulgaria has always provided
support for North Macedonia's EU integration but it has never
been unconditional," said the Bulgarian Foreign Minister.

She added: "The position of the Bulgarian Prime Minister and
Bulgarian government is very clear. We are well-intentioned but
we can't make compromises which will continue to lead to an
anti-Bulgarian campaign. It will be difficult for the entire EU
if we have outstanding issues."

"We still have a chance to reach an agreement on the negotiating
 framework despite the limited time," said Zaharieva. She added
that it will be mostly to the disadvantage of Skopje if it
misses this window of opportunity.

"We don't have an agreement yet on the negotiating framework,
Bulgaria wants nothing more than to see the Friendship Treaty
implemented with regards to the shared history as we have
agreed," she said.

She said that intense negotiations have been held in the past
weeks following a visit to Sofia by North Macedonia's Foreign
Minister. "Our messages to our colleagues from the EU and our
neighbors haven't changed. Bulgaria has consistently supported
the accession to the EU of North Macedonia and the other Western
 Balkan countries," Zaharieva said.

The EU's decision from March to greenlight accession
negotiations between the EU and North Macedonia and a number of
declarations, clearly states that the goodneighbourly relations
and the Treaty with Bulgaria should be observed, the Bulgarian
top diplomat recalled.

"For more than a year we have been witnessing a consistent
failure to implement the Treaty not only with regards to the
historical commission. Bulgaria has objections regarding the
implementation and progress of key infrastructure projects such
as Corridor VIII and instances of creating administrative
obstacles for Bulgarian investors," said Zaharieva.

She recalled that the joint historical commission met two weeks
ago after a year-long hiatus.

"It is not important whether the five historical figures on
which the joint historical commission has agreed are a lot or a
little. The bigger problem for Bulgaria is the fact that these
figures have not been announced publicly and that the agreement
is not reflected in the textbooks and museum artefacts, said
Zaharieva. "We can't close our eyes and pretend that we don't
see that there are problems with the implementation of the
Treaty," she said.

According to Zaharieva, regardless of what the Bulgaria-North
Macedonia historical commission has accomplished, if it remains
concealed, the assessment will be the same.

"We have heard a lot of accusations that Bulgaria does not
acknowledge the reality. On the contrary, we do acknowledge the
reality, even with the fact that Bulgaria was the first country
to recognize the state of Macedonia, but failure to acknowledge
the historical truth has serious implications in the reality,
which materialize as minority claims," said the Bulgarian
Foreign Minister.

"No one has the right to tell people how to self-identify and
what language to speak, but the same goes for Bulgarian citizens
 too. We have a breakthrough and I once again thank the German
Presidency for the commitment and the initiative but we are not
there yet to say "yes"," said the Deputy Prime Minister. NV/PP

Source: Sofia