site.btaUPDATED Foreign Ministry Aware of All French EU Council Presidency Proposals on North Macedonia
Approached for comment, Bulgaria's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a press release on Saturday that it is familiar with all proposals from the French Presidency of the Council of the European Union in connection with the start of EU accession negotiations with North Macedonia.
"The actions of the Bulgarian institutions cannot go beyond the framework established by the resolution of the 47th National Assembly of the Republic of Bulgaria of June 24, 2022 concerning EU enlargement and the negotiation process with the Republic of North Macedonia," the Ministry said.
"An internal procedure for the acceptance of the French Presidency proposal is in progress in the Republic of North Macedonia, and it will take a little time. Any speculation on the matter in Bulgaria during that period could affect adversely the process in our neighbouring country," the Ministry said.
The statement has been apparently prompted by media reports that Skopje is discussing a new French proposal for Sofia lifting its veto on the launch of the accession negotiations.
On June 24, Bulgaria's Parliament approved the then current version of the proposal on several conditions, including that the Negotiating Framework and the Council Conclusions should clearly rule out the recognition by Bulgaria of the existence of a "Macedonian language" and that the Framework should refer to the bilateral protocols under Article 12 of the Good-neighbourliness Treaty of 2017 that address the unresolved historic issues between the two countries.
On Friday, Macedonian Foreign Minister Bujar Osmani was quoted as saying that the Negotiating Framework includes the Macedonian language, which becomes an official language of the EU without any additions and qualifications, and that the decades-old issue of the language and its international challenge is thus closed definitively.
For his part, Macedonian Prime Minister Dimitar Kovachevski and Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs Bojan Marichic went on record as saying that the revised French Proposal leaves the historic issues protocol out of the Negotiating Framework.
On Friday, outgoing Bulgarian Foreign Minister Teodora Genchovska insisted that the French Proposal consists of a Negotiating Framework, Council Conclusions and a bilateral protocol.
The Macedonian Government has published a version of the French EU Council Presidency proposal with minor revisions which does meet certain Macedonian demands without tangibly affecting the interests of the Bulgarian side, www.dnevnik.bg reports.
The Negotiating Framework does not mention the bilateral protocol (or rather protocols), but it does mention "the annual reviews and measures for its effective implementation under its Article 12", on the basis of which the protocols are drawn up. The EU Common Position (which, too, is part of the proposal) says: "We welcome the agreement on the protocol from the second meeting of the Joint Intergovernmental Commission established under article 12 of this Treaty [of 2017]. This important step will contribute to the good neighbourly relations and regional cooperation, which remain essential elements of the enlargement process as well as of the Stabilization and Association Process."
Leaving history out of the Negotiating Framework is on paper only because common history remains part of the 2017 Treaty and is mentioned in the protocol, too, dnevnik points out.
It argues that the revisions concerning the language are cosmetic only. "The EU took note of Bulgaria and North Macedonia's respective unilateral declarations on the Macedonian language," the Negotiating Framework says.