Bulgarian MPs open path for North Macedonia’s EU accession talks

Bulgarian lawmakers on Friday overturned Sofia’s effective veto on North Macedonia beginning EU membership talks, but insisted on some conditions.

Four political parties clubbed together to secure a parliamentary majority for a proposal from the French presidency of the Council, which is intended to overcome a series of tensions between Sofia and Skopje over language, history and the rights of ethnic Bulgarians in North Macedonia.

Bulgarian national radio reported that 170 parliamentarians voted in favor, with 37 against.

Supporters of the so-called “French proposal” in the Bulgarian parliament see the plan as a way to bring in the EU as a guarantor in the process to ensure that the parties act as good neighbors.

Imposing some conditions, the Bulgarian lawmakers stressed the need for proper constitutional protection for Bulgarians in North Macedonia and insisted that there would be no assumption that Sofia will recognize Macedonian as a separate language from Bulgarian.

Paradoxically, Bulgaria’s U-turn now makes life tough for North Macedonia’s prime minister, who is opposed to the French-led compromise.

In an interview with POLITICO on Friday, Bulgaria’s outgoing Prime Minister Kiril Petkov said that his Macedonian counterpart Dimitar Kovačevski should show “guts” and back the deal, too.

“I know that the risk of toppling the government is — it’s a big risk,” Petkov said.

“As a politician, one has to decide, what is my purpose in this place? Is my purpose to be stable? Or is my purpose to lead the nation — take it a step forward — that is not comfortably going there. And I think this is the decision Dimitar Kovačevski has to do now,” he added.

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