Podcast in English
Text size
Bulgarian National Radio © 2023 All Rights Reserved

Macedonia and Bulgaria state their good intentions, now is the time to put them through

БНР Новини
Prime Ministers Borissov and Zaev in front of the monument to Tsar Samuel in Sofia.
Photo: BTA

Soon after his first visit to Brussels, the prime minister of Macedonia Zoran Zaev paid an official visit to Sofia. The Macedonian prime minister described both of these visits as historic, with one underlying aim – that Macedonia be given support and assistance in its bid for membership of the EU and of NATO. From Sofia, Zaev called on his country’s other neighbours to give their support to Macedonia’s Euro-Atlantic future. This appeal is an indication that the new Macedonian government is ready to normalize its relations with Greece, with which Macedonia has had a running naming dispute for years, and with Serbia, which Skopje is accusing of interference in its domestic affairs, but also with Albania and Kosovo, countries Macedonia has fallen out with over aspirations by the Albanian factor inside the country.

In Sofia PM Zaev stated a clear intention to overcome differences with Bulgaria, saying that Macedonia was closing a chapter in the history of nationalism and hatred and opening a new chapter of a European future for all. In confirmation of this intention Bulgaria and Macedonia reached agreement to sign a goodneighbour and cooperation agreement on 2 August – an act that has been postponed over many years. The date of its signature carries a deep symbolical meaning, because 2 August is the anniversary of the Ilinden uprising, described as the defining moment in the national-liberation struggle of the Macedonian and Thracian Bulgarians. The choice of 2 August is an unequivocal demonstration of the two countries’ determination to celebrate, jointly, historical events and figures the two countries have in common. A determination the two prime ministers Zoran Zaev and Boyko Borissov demonstrated during Zaev’s visit when the two paid their respects at the monument to Tsar Samuel in the Bulgarian capital. There is a monument to Samuel in Skopje as well, and Macedonian politicians and historians allege that the ruler is their national hero. Apparently the road to joint celebrations has not been cleared as yet, because Borissov made it clear that the two prime ministers would determine what “shared history” means and which specific periods of the past it covers after the foreign ministers of the two countries have given the goodneighbour agreement a final review but before it is signed.

To the appeals of the Macedonian prime minister, Sofia responded with assurances of support for the European and Euro-Atlantic integration of our neighbor to the west. However, PM Borissov noted that the country’s accession to NATO and the EU will depend most of all on Macedonia itself and its domestic political stability. President Rumen Radev also expressed support for Macedonia’s Euro-Atlantic and European prospects but to this support he added the wish to see a stable climate of trust between the two countries,