Another test for Macedonia, Bulgaria relations

10/12/2012

Sofia asks for three conditions to be met on Macedonia's EU integration path.

By Miki Trajkovski for Southeast European Times in Skopje --10/12/12

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Nikolaj Mladenov, Bulgarian foreign minister, in a recent letter to the Macedonian government asked that three conditions be met by the EU aspirant country. [AFP]

Skopje received a letter from the Bulgarian government stating three important conditions that Macedonia should meet for its successful Euro-Atlantic integration. The letter, received on November 29th, comes just two weeks before the EU Brussels summit when it will be decided if Macedonia will receive a date for the start of accession negotiations.

Nikolaj Mladenov, Bulgarian minister of foreign affairs, first asked for an agreement of good neighbourly relations and co-operation between the two countries, based on an existing declaration of good neighbourly relations from 1999.

"The second step condition is the construction of a necessary infrastructure [Corridor 8, connecting Bulgaria with Albania], with a goal to strengthen co-operation and form joint working groups to improve the relations in the main needed areas. Thirdly, Sofia suggests forming a high-level council that would conduct annual intergovernmental meetings," the letter stated.

Mladenov said that Bulgaria has always supported Macedonia's EU efforts, but that bilateral relations in the past few years have not been at an adequate level for the two countries.

The letter from Bulgaria comes as a response to an earlier letter the Macedonian government sent to Sofia in which it was suggested maintaining mutual respect of one another's sensitive issues, historical issues to be left to historians, and that the two countries mutually help one another as needed.

Nikola Popovski, Macedonian minister of foreign affairs said there is nothing disruptive in Mladenov's letter.

"The message sent from Sofia meets the previously established initiatives … dealing with the issues from the past. In fact, Bulgaria supports Macedonia in all main areas," Popovski confirmed.

Some political analysts in Macedonia, however, disagreed. Risto Nikovski, former Macedonian ambassador, said the letter is an unnecessary push from Bulgaria.

"They think that now is the time to push us, so they could achieve certain rouge gains, and they'll do their best to achieve that, though they won't succeed," Nikovski said.

Mladenov's letter followed Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev's comments in late October, in which he criticised the Macedonian government for "systematically employing an ideology of hate towards Bulgaria."

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While reiterating Sofia's support for Macedonia's EU bid, he also urged Skopje to put an end to "its anti-Bulgarian campaign and manipulation of historical facts," and focus on the required reforms.

According to Solomon Passy, president and founder of the Atlantic Club Bulgaria and former foreign minister, the issue could have been addressed differently.

"I can only regret that instead of confidential face-to-face talks between the two prime ministers, we are seeing publicised letters between them," he told SETimes. "I hoped that Bulgaria's NATO and EU membership would be used to upgrade relations with our neighbours, but what we see is just the opposite. Still, it's encouraging this is not a matter of relations between the two peoples, but between the two governments."

SETimes correspondent Svetla Dimitrova in Sofia contributed to this report.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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