Bulgaria’s expected veto on updating the negotiating framework for North Macedonia, in order to hold the first intergovernmental conference for the start of accession negotiations was put forward by Bulgarian Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva in the EU General Assembly yesterday.
Zaharieva set an ultimatum with three conditions in order to lift the veto and move forward the accession process of North Macedonia. Firstly, the observance of the language type since 1999 and confirmation by the Treaty of Friendship and Good Neighbourliness, secondly the implementation of the roadmap of the 2017 Agreement and thirdly a very clear and explicit text that there will be no claim for a Macedonian minority in Bulgaria.
What is striking is the use of history by Bulgaria for political purposes. Although the use and falsification of history for political gain by nationalists and far-rightists such as Karakachanov is well known, one would not expect a new politician like Zaharieva to operate by nationalist and far-right standards.
But what is really happening and Zaharieva follows Karakachanov?
Zaharieva, a mediocre Minister of Foreign Affairs, very quickly chose to prepare and sign the Good Neighbourliness Agreement with North Macedonia, but without preparing it, so that it would be functional and cover issues that today highlights them as problems in the accession course of North Macedonia.
Negligence or incompetence? Probably both, as what she wanted was to anticipate what he saw coming between Greece and North Macedonia; an agreement to resolve the 27-year dispute between the two countries. Fear of Skopje joining Athens’s sphere of influence made her hasty and reckless.
When the Prespa Agreement, after the masterful negotiation of the Greek Minister of Foreign Affairs Nikos Kotzias, became a reality and the problems between Greece and North Macedonia were resolved in their entirety, the weakness of the Good Neighborhourliness Agreement signed in 2017 by Bulgaria and Zaharieva herself became apparent, along with the fact that she failed to defend her country’s political interests.
For this reason, she enlisted History in politics. And she purposefully chose the timing to do this – immediately after the change of government in Greece and the arrival of Kyriakos Mitsotakis – a politician who had made the abolition of the Prespa Agreement the flag of his election campaign – looking forward to a possible cooperation.
In addition, the continuation of the postponement of the start of the accession negotiations for North Macedonia and Albania by the EU for internal reasons, due to the change of the accession framework desired by Emmanuel Macron, gave Zaharieva the opportunity to put Bulgaria’s demands on the agenda. For this reason, the red lines regarding the accession of North Macedonia to the EU were voted in October 2019 at the National Assembly, legitimizing its demands institutionally.
The political challenge to Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov by the opposition has given Zaharieva another step in toughening her stance on North Macedonia, as she believes she can lead the ruling GERB party after Borissov’s departure, and in this effort, she believes that this nationalistic rhetoric may help her in her pursuits.
It is for these political pursuits that Zahaeiva involves History in politics, imprisoning Bulgaria in a logic that will not do the country any favours.
Obviously, Zaharieva’s historical knowledge is mediocre to poor, judging by the demands it has on North Macedonia. The Bulgarian Foreign Minister should have known the history of her country and the role she played in both the First and Second World Wars and the fascist past of the country, as well as in the Balkan wars with the persecution she exercised over the population in region, without this past of course burdening the Bulgarians. One such example is Germany, which has accepted its past.
Zaharieva should know that self-determination is an inalienable right for everyone and not just for the citizens of North Macedonia who want to identify as Bulgarians. This also applies to those who want to identify themselves as Macedonians and live in Bulgaria.
The Balkan region needs sobriety, peace, cooperation. The past does not change. It belongs to historians and is a school for politicians. But the future is in the hands of the political staff and politicians to change and become a bridge of cooperation and peaceful coexistence.