The Real Bulgarian Interests In North Macedonia: In Between Diplomacy and Business

Outstanding issues between Bulgaria and its southwestern neighbour are important, but it is critical to provide infrastructure and a stable business environment for companies.

26 October 2021

The will and commitment to enlarge the European Union (EU) exists, but, currently, there is also nothing concrete on the table. This was the message conveyed by EU leaders during the EU-Western Balkans summit on October 6th in Slovenia.

EU Council President Charles Michel spoke for the first time about the need for a political solution for minorities and the way they are treated in some countries.

Without specifying any group, it became clear that he was referring to the Bulgarians and Albanians in the Republic of North Macedonia (RNM) and tensions over the results of the current census in the country at the request of the EU (the latter was conducted 19 years ago). For her part, European Commission (EC) President Ursula von der Leyen said that “the Western Balkans are part of the same Europe as the Member states and the EU is not complete without their accession”, which is the ultimate goal. The lack of clarity regarding when exactly this goal will be achieved is offset by an economic plan of EUR 9 billion in the region, which is expected to generate an additional EUR 30 billion for boosting the economies, as well as a roadmap for green transition, further reduction of roaming charges, etc.

Ursula von der Leyen also spoke of the remaining ‘5 + 1’ open questions between Sofia and Skopje, and the associated negotiations that the European Commission would like to help with in order to expedite their resolution. The challenges were not officially mentioned, but it is considered they are based on the Memorandum of Relations between Bulgaria and the Republic of Macedonia. Among them are the protection of the rights of Bulgarian minorities, the change of the textbooks, the amendment to the constitution, and the inclusion of the Bulgarians among the nation-building states listed in its preamble.

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Monika Varbanova

Policy analysis graduated master at University of Bonn, Germany and PhD researcher at the University of Gent, Belgium. Previous work as a policy advisor at the European Parliament in Brussels. Currently. business reporter on EU affairs for a leading Bulgarian economic media Capital.bg

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