site.btaUPDATED Foreign Minister Osmani: Biggest Detriment to N Macedonia Will Be the EU Believing Public Pressure Applied on Ethnic Community Here
Russia is among the factors that have an interest in keeping conflicts alive in the Western Balkans region in order to have an easier influence. Even the latest escalation of tensions in the relations between Bulgaria and North Macedonia will be welcomed by third countries that see a chance to maintain a permanent conflict here, North Macedonia's Foreign Minister Bujar Osmani said in an interview with Radio Free Europe on Sunday.
Osmani reiterated that summoning the Bulgarian ambassador to Skopje for consultations in Sofia was a disproportionate reaction "insofar as it relates to the incident in Ohrid", in which Hristian Pendikov, secretary of the King Boris III Bulgarian cultural club there, was beaten up, because the Republic of North Macedonia had taken "all possible measures".
"We immediately identified the perpetrators and one of them is in custody. Immediately the president, the prime minister, the foreign minister condemned what happened. I went to Sofia, and I expressed what the state should show to our citizens, so I don't really see what the connection is between the case and the reaction (of Bulgaria). Realistically there was a "careless reaction" in the public in North Macedonia, but in general the institutions reacted as the state should react in such cases. One cannot generalise from such an incident and draw conclusions about how the state behaves towards communities," Osmani said.
He identified the upcoming elections in Bulgaria as an aggravating factor "because elections usually complicate sensitive issues and do not give diplomats the space to do their job properly".
"The season of provocateurs and political profiteers (in both countries) is open and now everyone is in action, but we need to stop this cycle of mutual deterioration of relations and bring back a positive agenda. I think North Macedonia has so far done everything it needs to do to deal with an incident that can happen anywhere," Osmani pointed out.
He said there was no direct evidence of Russian involvement in the deterioration of relations between Bulgaria and North Macedonia, but that "there is a third party interest in keeping conflicts alive or frozen in this region so that it is easier to exert influence, this has been known for a very long time." In his view, the escalation of tensions between the two countries is welcome for third parties "who will see a chance to maintain a permanent conflict here". Asked who those third parties were, he replied saying the Russian Federation.
Responding to a question on whether the amendments to the Constitution to include the Bulgarians living in the Republic of North Macedonia in the Preamble of the Basic Law, which is a condition for opening the negotiation chapters with the EU, would be accepted in such an atmosphere, Osmani replied that the constitutional changes are in the interest of the Republic of North Macedonia.
"Regarding Bulgaria's behaviour, analysts who observe our relations ask themselves how much Bulgaria is interested in the constitutional changes happening because these changes are in our interest. They will help the Bulgarian community, but they will be a turning point in our relations with Bulgaria in the interest of North Macedonia," Osmani said.
In an interview with the Nezavisen Vesnik daily issue during the past week, former ambassador of North Macedonia to Bulgaria Georgi Spasov developed the thesis that "everything that has been happening in the past week in the Bulgarian-Macedonian relations is part of Sofia's 'imperial ambitions' towards North Macedonia and the aim is not to accept the changes in the constitution and to keep the country out of the EU for a long time".
"If anyone is doing anything to prevent a new veto (by Bulgaria) to keep EU support for North Macedonia, it is the foreign ministry. Our main goal is not to ride the wave of emotions, but to work toward our long-term interest. The greatest damage that can be done to the country is for the EU to start believing that there is public pressure on an ethnic community, that there is some kind of discrimination, violence," Osmani said.