Brussels (Brussels Morning) Bulgaria has blocked North Macedonia’s path to the EU, demanding that the country rewrites its history books to acknowledge common roots of pre-WWII figures, while objecting to the name North Macedonia and dismissing the Macedonian language as a variant of Bulgarian, RFI reported Wednesday.
Germany’s Minister of State for Europe Michael Roth noted there were “open questions from the Bulgarian point of view that have to be clarified.” Roth and his EU counterparts discussed at a videoconference a number of obstacles to the bloc’s plan to expand to the Western Balkans, namely Albania and North Macedonia.
North Macedonia, he pointed out, had been compelled to change its name from Macedonia last year following Greek objections based on the fact that Macedonia is the name of the largest region in Greece. Roth indicated that it was not the time to start accession talks with North Macedonia since there were too many obstacles yet to be overcome.
Bulgaria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Ekaterina Zakharieva said her country was prepared to open accession negotiations with Albania, but not with North Macedonia. The EU’s plan to start accession talks with North Macedonia was unacceptable, she maintained, since it did not meet Bulgaria’s demands.
The EU Commission Vice-President for Inter-institutional Relations Maroš Šefčovič noted that both Albania and North Macedonia had implemented reforms as part of agreements reached in pre-accession talks. He hoped the two countries would be on track to start accession negotiations soon.
Unnamed government sources from North Macedonia stated that the EU accession process should not be hampered by bilateral issues, stressing that accession talks should not become negotiations with Bulgaria.
North Macedonia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Bujar Osmani warned that Bulgaria’s stance was damaging to itself, to North Macedonia, to the enlargement process and to the credibility of the EU.
Despite their disagreements, North Macedonia and Bulgaria will continue talks in an attempt to iron out the issues.
One of Bulgaria’s objections, Bloomberg reports, is that North Macedonia refuses to acknowledge that the Macedonian language is a dialect of Bulgarian, and that it therefore does not deserve the status of an EU language.