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(DF) Defence Minister Briefs Parliament on Talks with North Macedonia, Says Nobody Pressures Bulgaria to Give Green Light to Skopje's EU Accession Talks

November 13 (BTA) - Appearing in Parliament Friday to brief the deputies on the talks with officials of North Macedonia in the outgoing week, Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Krassimir Karakachanov said that nobody is pressuring Bulgaria to give a green light to Skopje's EU accession talks. He said that the Skopje officials were told that Bulgaria is in favour of its neighbour's entry in the EU but is objected to the start of accession talks before the remaining sticking points in bilateral relations are addressed. Karakachanov also said that the German Presidency of the EU has only offered to broker talks that may be needed between Bulgaria and North Macedonia. Bulgaria has repeatedly vowed support for North Macedonia's accession to the EU. In 2017, the two countries signed a Treaty of Friendship, Good Neighbourliness and Cooperation, which was expected to iron out differences over facts in their shared history. A Joint Multidisciplinary Commission on Historical and Educational Issues, dominated by historians, was set up under the Treaty to address these differences but its success has been doubtful. Consequently, the long-standing controversy over historical figures (claimed as national heroes by both countries) and the Macedonian language (which Bulgaria considers a dialect of the Bulgarian language) has escalated in recent months with the result of Bulgaria refusing to give a green light to North Macedonia's first intergovernmental conference with the EU. The Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of North Macedonia were in Sofia earlier this week for forums of the Berlin Process for the Western Balkans. The Bulgarian opposition to the proposed framework for EU accession talks with North Macedonia was widely expected to be on the agenda of the visit but if it was, there was no official information about it. Karakachanov told the legislature Friday that during the talks with the North Macedonia officials, Bulgaria reconfirmed its position that it favours Skopje's entry in the EU but believes that the 2017 Good Neighbourliness Treaty is not implemented by North Macedonia, that the work of the mixed commission is slow and its decisions - which Bulgaria says are too few and North Macedonia many - have not been made public and are not incorporated in Skopje's official policy. Also, the problem with hate speech about Bulgaria in North Macedonia remains and no progress has been made with making changes in what schoolgoers in North Macedonia are taught about Bulgaria. "We told them that without addressing the hate speech issue, carrying through a change in the education system to eliminate false facts and deal with the controversy on historical figures and events, the only position Bulgaria can have is oppose the scheduling of the first intergovernmental conference for the start of [accession] talks with North Macedonia," said Karakachanov. He argued that Bulgaria has made enough concessions in the past 30 years or so, ever since it recognized North Macedonia as a sovereign state. "It has made enough concessions in the last three years after the signing of the Good-Neighbourliness Treaty when, despite the negligible progress on this Treaty, is supported North Macedonia's entry in NATO. Unfortunately, maybe the ruling coalition in Skopje believes that after we opened the door to NATO for their country, Bulgaria can be pressured - or for some short-term political considerations decide - to cancel its own framework position and the declaration of Parliament," said Karakachanov. He was referring to the documents setting out the Bulgarian position on the matter. "We have not changed the Bulgarian position and have not given up helping North Macedonia become a part of the EU but we have explained clearly and firmly that we cannot do that at the expense of the Bulgarian national interest and the national cultural and historical identity," said the Deputy Prime Minister.RI/LN/ // 14 Ноябрь 2020, 08:00

Источник: BTA Free News

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