Deadlines are running: The EU wants the dispute to be resolved by July, will continue to put pressure on Sofia and Skopje

Kovacevski and Petkov at the NATO summit in Brussels / Photo: Facebook

The EU has confirmed that if the dispute between Skopje and Sofia is not resolved by the end of the French presidency, there will be a deep crisis with the region. Sofia reiterated her veto that she expects "concrete steps to be taken together without any calendars or expectations." Skopje, on the other hand, said that all conditions for the start of negotiations with the EU have been met and now Bulgaria is on the move.

EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell said yesterday that he was setting a timeframe for resolving the dispute between Northern Macedonia and Bulgaria by the end of the French presidency on June 30, MIA reports from Brussels.

- We have delved deeply into the issue of relations with Bulgaria, which is blocking the process, during the debate between the EU member states, and this is something that must be overcome, there is political will in the Council to avoid a crisis that would happen if not resolved until the end of the French presidency I put a deadline. "If that does not happen, we will have a serious crisis in relations with the Western Balkans, and we will continue to put pressure on both sides to find a solution," Borrell said. at the press conference after the Council of Foreign Ministers, at which a special session was held with the foreign ministers of the Western Balkans for the first time.

He reminded that Northern Macedonia, together with Albania and Montenegro, are fully in line with EU foreign policy and EU sanctions against Russia, as well as that Northern Macedonia and Albania are on the list of enemy countries of Moscow. All this, he pointed out, will have a price.

"We need to start negotiations with Northern Macedonia and Albania, and I hope, more than hope and desire, that this will happen during the French presidency, we consider this delay unsustainable," Borrell said, adding that both countries meet all conditions that are required of them, and if they do not have an EU perspective, it will cost Europe a lot in terms of credibility, and it will be a gift to Russia.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bujar Osmani, who participated in this first session of the formal EU Foreign Affairs Council with the ministers from the Western Balkans, said that it is up to Bulgaria to use the political moment to save the EU credibility in the region.

He warned his EU counterparts about the economic and political consequences of the Ukraine conflict on the region, as well as the need to save the EU's credibility right now, by unblocking the negotiation process with Northern Macedonia. 

- I will repeat, the ball is in the Republic of Bulgaria. The Republic of Bulgaria has to decide whether to use this moment for the whole region after these events in Ukraine, whether the EU will take strategic leadership in the region. The Republic of Northern Macedonia was a constructive partner in these talks, in meeting these criteria. I'm afraid that this moment we have now may be lost. "As I said at the Foreign Affairs Council itself, the biggest gift for Russia will be to undermine the EU's credibility in the region," Osmani said. He emphasized that at the moment there is no agreement between the two parties that can be a basis for signing an agreement, but that ways are being considered to incorporate the different approaches into a comprehensive solution.

Osmani stated this in front of the 27 EU ministers, including the Bulgarian Minister, Teodora Gencovska, which, according to MIA sources, did not show flexibility at the meeting. In case Bulgaria blocks Northern Macedonia again in June, Osmani says we will have to "sit down and see" how to proceed.

Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov Yesterday at a joint press conference with his Dutch counterpart Mark Rutte in Sofia, regarding the Republic of Northern Macedonia, he said that it is a matter of "concrete steps to take this path together and it is not a function of any calendars or expectations, but a function of common work to be done together, what we do ”.

The Bulgarian Government will submit the topic to the Bulgarian Parliament and, he says, he hopes that in the near future there will be progress on this topic and that the European future of the Republic of Northern Macedonia will become a reality.

The Prime Minister Dimitar Kovacevski, on the other hand, said that we are a country that has raised the issue of the rights of the smaller ethnic communities at an extremely high level and we are the only country in Europe that has a ministry for the smaller ethnic communities.

Answering a journalist question whether the Government is considering establishing an institution that will work for the rights of Bulgarians as requested by his Bulgarian counterpart Petkov, Kovachevski, he added that only we in Europe have legal solutions that promote the rights of smaller communities in every sense - from using languages, through equal access to employment in the public sector, to the various government programs within the Budget, as well as through other institutions that have been established.

In this country, Prime Minister Kovachevski emphasized, all citizens have equal chances for personal and professional development, it is regulated by the Constitution, it is included in the Government's program, and the Ombudsman's Office takes care of the rights of all citizens, including the Bulgarian minority. , stressed Kovacevski before addressing a panel on socio-political participation of young people.

From Austria, Slovakia and Italy, on the other hand, another confirmation of the strong support for the European path of S. Macedonia and the start of accession negotiations as soon as possible.

Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schalenberg yesterday from Brussels on the eve of the EU Council of Foreign Ministers, said that a clear signal is needed regarding the Western Balkans. - 20 years ago we promised the region that their future is in the EU. "Now we have to move from words to deeds," said the Austrian minister.

The EU must not "lose" the countries of the Western Balkans, because that region is in the center of Europe and is crucial and geostrategically important for us, he underlined, and warned that Russia has great potential there to cause damage even without any shot.

- Everything should be said clearly. We have great expectations from France, which holds the EU presidency and has announced the Western Balkans Summit. We must bring visa liberalization to Kosovo, as well as start accession negotiations with Northern Macedonia and Albania. "If we are talking about Ukraine, we must also talk about BiH," Schallenberg said.

The Slovak Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ivan Korчоok, told the EU Foreign Affairs Council that one of his main messages would be that negotiations with Northern Macedonia and Albania, which have been waiting for more than two years for the first Intergovernmental Conference, blocked by Bulgaria, must begin without delay.

- There is no reason for further delay in the start of negotiations, that is what the countries expect, once you meet the important criteria, we must deliver and we must do it now. And, more importantly, because we see other competitors in the Western Balkans, so once again this will be our best signal, said Korchok, for whom this is all the more important in the context of the war in Ukraine.

Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs Bojan Maricic and the Deputy Foreign Minister of Italy, Veneteto Della Vedova, from yesterday's bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the 7th Annual Forum of the EU Strategy for the Adriatic-Ionian Region, issued a message that EU stability will depend on the European perspective of the region and that time is for activation of the negotiations with Northern Macedonia and Albania.

It was stressed at the meeting that "bilateral issues should not be an obstacle to start negotiations with the EU, because we have long ago fulfilled the conditions and obligations."

"The unification of the region in the European family will strengthen the stability and restore the credibility of the Union among the citizens of the region and will strengthen its role as a global leader, which will confirm the success of the European project - the European Union," said Maricic.

Della Vedova reaffirmed strong support for Macedonia's European perspective and expressed confidence that the start of Northern Macedonia's EU membership negotiations would take place as soon as possible.

The Council of Ambassadors of the country welcomes the statement of the Foreign Ministers of the G-7 member states and the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, expressed in a joint Declaration from yesterday's meeting in Wiesenhaus, Germany, that they strongly support the speedy opening of accession talks. of Northern Macedonia and Albania with the EU and thus affirm their commitment to support the European perspective of the six countries of the Western Balkans in order to ensure the security, stability and prosperity of the region.

Regarding the postponement of the intergovernmental meeting with the Republic of Bulgaria, which was to be held these days due to "non-fulfillment of tasks" by Northern Macedonia, as stated by the Bulgarian institutions, the Council of Ambassadors expresses its disappointment with, as they state. The non-serious and conditional approach of the Bulgarian state institutions to the promotion of the friendly bilateral relations between the two countries and believes that those relations can be promoted only by mutual acceptance and respect for European values.

The Council of Ambassadors also issued a statement yesterday calling on Bulgarian state institutions to finally lift the veto against Northern Macedonia in order to contribute to the prosperity, peace and security of the region in these times of crisis.

Source: MIA

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