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INTEGRATION Buchkovski: First chance to end Sofia’s blockade will be after formation of new Bulgarian gov’t

The action plan is 99% complete, which gives us hope of holding an intergovernmental conference in the next few weeks to create suitable atmosphere before talks, which our PM hopes will happen in March or June, following the formation of the new Bulgarian government, Vlado Buchkovski, the government’s Special Representative for Bulgaria, said on Tuesday.

“The idea put forward by North Macedonia’s Foreign Ministry, which has been accepted by the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry is to adopt the document at a joint government conference, which we hoped would take place as soon as possible. However, Bulgaria is launching on March 5, the pre-election campaign. So, the fact that the action plan is 99% complete gives us hope of holding an intergovernmental conference in the next few weeks to create suitable atmosphere before talks, which our PM hopes will happen in March or June, following the formation of the new Bulgarian government,” Buchkovski told “360 stepeni.”

He noted that all that’s left to do regarding the action plan is work out technical details, adding that efforts made by North Macedonia and Bulgaria in the media sector will ensure balanced approach to reporting.

“Bulgaria has insisted on a package containing beside the action plan ways to resolve open issues, which we see as political issues that will take longer to settle. These include disputes over the long and short name of the country, minorities, language and the systematic fight against hate speech in both countries. What both countries have done in the media sector, making efforts for showing BTV content on MTV, making several private Bulgarian TV stations available to Max TV users, cooperation between MIA and BTA, etc. will ensure balanced approach to reporting,” Buchkovski said.

Regarding what exactly are Bulgaria’s demands and what can be done to unblock North Macedonia’s EU accession process, Buchkovski said that the key issue lies in shared history, which according to the Friendship Treaty has been left to the multidisciplinary commission on historical and education issues, set to play an important role in creating the right atmosphere to overcome differences.

“Bulgarian officials are insisting on a separate chapter to monitor treaty implementation, making the process reversible and allowing the EC to always come back to it. We said that this is unacceptable. The key issue lies in shared history, which according to the Friendship Treaty has been left to the multidisciplinary commission on historical and education issues, set to play an important role in creating the right atmosphere to overcome difference. It should not force decisions, but be productive, open discussions in the spirit of European values and implement decisions in textbooks, not just present them to the public,” the Special Representative stressed.

He added that the first chance to make progress in the dispute between North Macedonia and Bulgaria will be in May or June.

“I think we have a chance to make progress after the election in Bulgaria, meaning in May or June. After that, there’s a period of pre-election campaigns, local election in North Macedonia and presidential election in Bulgaria. If attempts in May and June fail, we’ll get another chance in November and December. I think we have a chance to make progress this year, or if you will, by the end of my term on December 1, 2021. There’s a real chance of reaching a compromise because we’re close to  finding a solution that will suit both sides. Bulgaria knows that we won’t back down. The recognition that some things are non-negotiable is encouraging and can be seen as the first serious step towards restoring trust,” said the government’s Special Representative for Bulgaria, Vlado Buchkovski.

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