After Sunday’s elections in Bulgaria, Macedonian special envoy for the talks, Vlado Buckovski, expressed high hopes of finding common ground with the possible new government, presumably headed by Kiril Petkov and with the Minister of Foreign Affairs. foreign Daniel Lorer.
In this year’s third parliamentary elections, Bulgarians voted for a new centrist party, hoping to end months of stalemate. The “We Continue The Change” party, launched just two months ago by two Harvard-trained entrepreneurs, won 25.5% of the vote, following two previously inconclusive polls.
Buckovski told Slobodan Pechat that “Lorer has exceptional knowledge and is his closest associate (to Petkov). He was in his office when he was acting Minister of the Economy. He is Jewish and a graduate of Tel Aviv University. It is said that he has experience in negotiation and that he is the ideal person for a solution (of the problem).
In addition, ahead of the elections, Petkov told EURACTIV Bulgaria that he wanted a more pragmatic and dialogue-oriented approach to North Macedonia. His party proposed that negotiations with Skopje include businessmen and scientists.
Petkov said: “We have to start real negotiations which have not yet happened”. He added that Lorer would be ideal to lead the negotiations as he is a “venture capitalist who speaks six languages and trades his entire life.”
He also said they would demand that Skopje protect the rights of the Bulgarian minority, but added that a constitutional amendment would not be necessary because “it will become complicated”.
In October, Bulgarian President Rumen Radev said Bulgaria would lift its veto if certain conditions were met.
Bulgaria could lift North Macedonia’s veto by November pending three conditions
“As long as our compatriots are subjected to a subtle erasure of their identity until their fundamental rights are taken away, and they are not fully integrated into the Republic of North Macedonia with other parts of the population, we have no way of saying ‘yes’ to the opening of negotiations, ”the Bulgarian president said, as reported by Euractiv.com.
The three demands posed by Radev are that Macedonian Bulgarians be included on an equal footing in the constitution. Serbs, Albanians, Turks, Bosnians and Roma are currently mentioned, but not Bulgarians.
Second, for the Macedonian census to reflect the self-identification of Bulgarians. Third, he said North Macedonia must recognize a “historical truth” and that textbooks in schools across the country should not include hateful language.
With a new government in place, these three conditions may not apply and the lifting of the veto may come sooner. This would be good news for Albania, whose accession path is linked to that of Macedonia.
Last week, the Dutch Prime Minister visiting Albania said Albania’s EU membership was linked to the outcome of the Bulgarian elections.
“In order [for Albania] in order to hold its first intergovernmental conference, it is essential that the problems between Bulgaria and North Macedonia be resolved. Hope this will happen. You have done a lot. To be fair, [Albania] has made the right amount of progress, ”said Rutte.
In June this year, the EU’s General Affairs Council failed to reach an agreement on opening EU accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia. Bulgaria’s veto over North Macedonia made a unanimous decision by the 27 foreign ministers impossible, penalizing Albania.
Rama thanked Rutte for his mediation with Bulgaria and expressed his hope that the issue would be resolved when the European Council meets in December.
Rumors have circulated, however, that not all EU member states are happy with the prospect of Albania’s membership and that the unanimous vote in favor of Albania could have been a diplomatic gesture knowing that the Bulgarian veto of North Macedonia would prevent further progress.
Meanwhile, North Macedonia is grappling with its own internal turmoil following the defeat of local elections in favor of the opposition party VMRO-DPNE, a party believed to have a less favorable stance on the EU.
After the results were achieved, Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said he would resign, but did not do so, then flip-flopped on the decision, pledging to stay in power for the sake of stability. Meanwhile, the opposition called for a no-confidence vote which failed as half of parliament refused to run and one MP was temporarily “absent”.
As the EU’s hopes and goals seem less tangible, the leaders of North Macedonia, Serbia and Albania continue to pursue their Open Balkan initiative to facilitate free trade, movement and even residence between the three countries. Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro refused to participate for fear it would affect their path to the EU.