By Vildan Özkan
Bulgaria joins Greece in procrastinating the start date of Macedonia for EU integration talks. The government referred to “bilateral” problems as an excuse and added that Macedonia still lacks both determination and good will of improving its neighborly relations. The blockage has cancelled the negotiations for the fourth time in addition to the former cancellations related to the issue of ongoing “name dispute” with Greece.
Bulgarian government is currently accusing Macedonia of “stealing” Bulgaria’s history and intentionally serving to foster an anti-Bulgarian point of view among its people. Revision of history textbooks and better treatment of the Bulgarian minority in Macedonia are currently put forward as prerequisites to reconciliation, by Bulgaria.
Bulgarian President Plevneliev stated: “Bulgaria cannot grant an EU certificate to the actions of the government in Skopje which is systematically employing an ideology of hate toward Bulgaria. It is high time that the government in Skopje be done with its anti-Bulgarian campaign, and the manipulation of historical facts.” And the Prime Minister Boyko Borisov added: “The government in Skopje should solve its problems in a European manner after which Macedonia can gain our support.”
EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule had previously taken action to ease the inter-state level of tension. He paid a visit to Sofia on October 31st and carried out official contacts on Bulgarian government’s concerns. Coming today, he still encourages quick initiation of EU talks of Macedonia expressing his discontent in attempted marginalization of the country by its neighbors. “I believe that integration is the best means for coping with nationalism, and I am convinced that isolation boosts nationalism,” he was quoted as saying.
As for the longstanding “name crisis with Greece” which constitutes the main reason for recurring Greek blockages on the way to Macedonia’s NATO and EU membership, Fule suggests to fix a certain negotiation date to come up with a solution.
For some time Greece has been reserving the right to protest against the usage of any different name than “Former Yugoslav Republic of (FYR) Macedonia” as UN also officially recognized. The persistence of the country to keep FYR Macedonia’s constitutional name solely as “Macedonia” has been openly unwelcomed by Greece since the latter allegedly suggests a sort of territorial claim over northern Greek territory bearing the same name.