Bulgaria Won’t Trade Skopje Veto for US Visas and Schengen

by Cristian Florescu

Bulgaria will not try to trade its EU veto on North Macedonia against Schengen accession and the abolition of US visas,  as proposed by Slavi Trifonov, the leader of one of the four parties in the ruling coalition – “There is such a people”, write exitnews.al

On Tuesday, the day after Trifonov’s suggestion, his coalition partners rejected the possibility with ironic comments. For now, the quadruple ruling coalition in Bulgaria remains united in saying that Skopje must meet Bulgarian requirements for the veto to be lifted.

Andrei Gyurov, a member of the party that won the election, “Change Continues”, said the strategy was to intensify talks with Skopje to bring positions closer. So far, Bulgaria has set many conditions for North Macedonia – reaching an agreement on the two countries’ common history before 1944, changing history textbooks, eliminating hate speech, and eliminating discrimination against Macedonian Bulgarians. Additionally, ” Change continues” wants the two countries to start talking about trade to improve relations.

The co-chairman of “Democratic Bulgaria” Atanas Atanasov, part of the ruling coalition, ironically commented on the position of the showman Trifonov. “I do not see anything wrong with what he said. It is a special irony,” Atanasov said, adding that Bulgaria must work for stability in the Balkans.

Earlier, Prime Minister Kiril Petkov even gave a six-month deadline in which the crisis must be overcome. In mid-January, he is expected to meet in Skopje with the new Prime Minister of North Macedonia, Dimitar Kovachevski.

In an interview for EURACTIV Bulgaria, former Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ivaylo Kalfin commented that Slavi Trifonov’s proposal “betrays amateurism and helplessness” because it will eliminate all previous Bulgarian claims to Skopje.

“The message to our partners in the EU and the United States is that the veto on the Republic of North Macedonia has only one reason – to blackmail them for concessions on issues on which we have no other arguments,” said the former Bulgarian foreign minister.

Kalfin commented that with such insistence, Bulgaria would put its partners in the absurd position of giving up the arguments that keep our country out of Schengen and the visa-free program to give in to Bulgarian extortion.

“The most important thing is that if this proposal becomes a fact, the government will show Bulgarian citizens that national dignity is just a tool for trade. In short, the result would be crushed national dignity, triumphant nationalists in the Republic of North Macedonia and ill-fated partners in the EU and the United States. This is unacceptable. Slavi Trifonov is right about one thing – now is the time to forge a mutually beneficial solution. However, it must be completely different from the proposed framework,” Kalfin explained.

According to him, the impasse in which our bilateral relations with Skopje have been in recent years has a chance at being resolved. Favourable factors are the new government in Sofia, the new prime minister in Skopje, and strong external pressure.

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