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Bulgaria vetoes FYROM’s EU accession talks

Bulgaria has joined Greece in vetoing the opening of EU accession talks with the FYROM, despite a positive recommendation by the European Commission. Bulgarian President Rossen Plevneliev told EU Enlargement Commissioner Štefan Füle on Wednesday (31 October) that the FYROM is “not ready” to start accession negotiations.

Füle visited Bulgaria in a bid to clarify the government’s position with respect to the FYROM. Prime Minister Boyko Borissov has accused Skopje of stealing from Bulgaria’s history and badmouthing his country.

But Füle got more than explanations and was told that Bulgaria doesn’t see the FYROM as ready to begin accession negotiations. Füle had invested a lot of his political ambition in trying to unblock the stalemate between Skopje and Athens in the name dispute, which is no other than Skopje’s false claims of a “Macedonian” nation, identity and language.

The country’s internationally recognized name is the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) but Skopje would prefer to be called simply “Macedonia”, which is also the name of a northern Greek province.

On 10 October, Füle proposed a compromise whereby negotiations would start before a resolution of the name dispute is found. It was the fourth time that the Commission has recommended the start of accession negotiations with the FYROM. Each time the efforts were blocked by Greece, for obvious reasons.

But this time it appears that some momentum has been introduced by Athens for signing a bilateral memorandum, in which both sides would commit to respecting the others national sovereignty and territorial integrity, and renounce any territorial claims.

Carefully prepared statements
The situation looks different today. Plevneliev told Füle in a carefully prepared statement that before expecting any good news from Brussels, Skopje would first have to improve its relations with Bulgaria.

“The authorities in Skopje will unlock their EU perspective not through propaganda and marketing campaigns but through actual reforms and actions for good-neighborly relations,” Plevneliev was quoted as saying by the website Novinite.

The Bulgarian president pointed out that Sofia does not deny an EU perspective to the FYROM, and in fact supports that, but takes into account the fact that the former Yugoslav republic is not ready to start talks for EU membership.

“Bulgaria cannot grant an EU certificate to the actions of the government in Skopje which is systematically employing an ideology of hate towards Bulgaria,” Plevneliev stated.

“It is strategically important for the long-term stability in the Balkans that the government in Skopje starts applying the European approach towards its neighbours, without claims and manipulations. It is high time that the government in Skopje be done with its anti-Bulgarian campaign, and the manipulation of historical facts. The responsible European approach towards one’s neighbours and the next generation is to preserve history whatever it might be,” Plevneliev added.

Füle reportedly disagreed with Plevneliev, and argued that the FYROM has been waiting for too long for membership in NATO, which Greece has also blocked, and the EU.

“I am one of those people who believe that it is not good to leave our partners waiting before the door for too long. I believe that integration is the best means for coping with nationalism, and I am convinced that isolation boosts nationalism,” Füle was quoted as saying.

Commission cites of EU values
A diplomatically worded Commission communiqué states that Füle understands Bulgaria’s concerns, but urges both countries to solve any open issues in a neighborly spirit.

“I welcome the fact that presidents have exchanged letters, and that Ministers Mladenov and Poposki are contributing to improving relations between the two countries. I am confident that through constructive dialogue and common understanding real progress can be achieved,” the Commission statement said. Nickolay Mladenov is foreign minister of Bulgaria and Nikola Poposki is his Macedonian counterpart.

But precisely this exchange of letters has added fuel to the fire.

Plevneliev had proposed that Bulgaria and the FYROM jointly celebrate certain historical dates and avoid a nationalist reading of history. One such date is Ilinden, which commemorates an uprising on 2 August 1903 that freed the Bulgarians in Thrace and the territory which is nowadays the FYROM from Ottoman rule. The former Yugoslav Republic has a different reading of the events and denies the role of Bulgaria in liberating its present territory.

Much to the disappointment of Bulgarian authorities, Skopjan President Gjorge Ivanov responded to Plevneliev, pretending he didn’t understand the purpose of the proposal. The Skopje government led website MINA reported that Ivanov gave Plevneliev three dates which the FYROM would consider celebrating jointly with Bulgaria: Europe Day; the day Bulgaria recognized the FYROM as “Macedonia” and the day Bulgaria and the FYROM established diplomatic relations.

This was seen in Sofia as an offense with Mladenov and Borissov reportedly making statements to the EU commissioner confirming Bulgaria’s determination.

These developments took place amid threats by the EU executive to publish an extraordinary monitoring report on Bulgaria’s ailing judicial system, which may have encouraged Sofia to hit back at the Commission at a time when Füle was seeking mediation over the FYROM.

Nationalism rife in both Sofia and Skopje
Borissov’s populist stance is widely shared, with the opposition Socialist Party signalling that it shares the government’s position on the FYROM.

In Skopje, Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, the leader of the nationalist VMRO-DPNE party, appears as the main instigator of tensions with its neighbours. Gruevski’s government has financed statues and arches promoting Skopjan nationalism and has renamed the airport and for Alexander the Great, a Greek historical figure now claimed by FYROM slavs.

MacedoniaHellenicLand.Eu
with information by euractiv.com

Press statement by Commissioner Štefan Füle following the meeting with Bulgarian Minister of Foreign Affairs Nikolay Mladenov in Sofia
http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_MEMO-12-825_en.htm?locale=en

Source: MacedoniaHellenicLand

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