Bulgaria puts first veto on North Macedonia’s EU path

Bulgaria puts first veto on North Macedonia’s EU path
By Valentina Dimitrievska in Skopje November 7, 2020

Bulgaria put the first veto on North Macedonia’s EU path on November 6 after its controversial unilateral conditions were not included in the EU negotiations framework for the country.

The veto came at the meeting of the committee of the permanent representatives of member states to the EU (COREPER) after Bulgarian ambassador Dimitar Tsanchev rejected the negotiation framework.

"Today [November 6] we have the first unfriendly message and blockade from Bulgaria for the negotiating framework in Brussels," North Macedonia’s Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said asked by journalists during an inspection of the Skopje-Tetovo-Gostivar gas pipeline.

Zaev underlined that with the veto Bulgaria violated Article 2 of the 2017 Friendship Agreement, under which Sofia has agreed to support Skopje’s EU membership.

“There is no violation by us so far,” Zaev said.

Sofia wants three conditions to be included in the negotiation framework for North Macedonia: good neighbourly relations; the EU to use only the official name Republic of North Macedonia and not the short name North Macedonia; and, the language formula to be the "official language" of the candidate country, not the "Macedonian language", Tsanchev was cited as saying by Bulgarian Mediapool.

North Macedonia's ex-PM Vlado Buckovski was cited by Bulgarian Dnevnik.bg as saying that if Bulgaria allows the start of EU negotiations it will be a historic chance for the country to be treated again as an ally and best friend, and not as an obstacle to North Macedonia's accession.

Buckovski raised the possibility that “Russian installations” in Bulgaria are to be blamed for this situation.

The Council of General Affairs of the EU Ministers, at which ministers were expected accept the negotiating framework for the start of EU accession negotiations with North Macedonia, was due to take place on November 10 but has been postponed until November 17.

The meeting was postponed after German Minister of State for Europe Michael Roth was isolated after being in contact with Bulgarian Deputy Foreign Minister Petko Doikov, who was infected with coronavirus.

Zaev said that by then there will be two more meetings of ambassadors in COREPER, so there is still a chance to make progress.

Germany stepped up its diplomatic efforts to broker a solution between Sofia and Skopje, as it insists the EU talks with Skopje must start under its presidency in December as planned.