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INTEGRATION Goce Delchev issue remains unsolved as slight progress made after Skopje talks

After two days of talks in Skopje, Macedonian and Bulgarian historians didn’t reach an agreement over the Goce Delchev issue, which remains a stumbling block. New proposals and ideas have been put forward, but very little has been revealed.

The Joint Multidisciplinary Commission of Experts on Historical and Education Issues is expected to convene again by the end of the year in Sofia.

“There are slight advancements and this is important at this time. The process of discussions continues, including all difficulties and sensitive topics on the table. I urge for patience and more empathy for us and our Bulgarian colleagues, so that issues are debated with less emotions and tensions. This is the only way to overcome issues,” Macedonian commission co-chair Dragi Gjorgiev told reporters after Friday’s meeting.

Bulgarian co-chair Angel Dimitrov said the Macedonian language was not even an issue of discussions, because “this is a topic for linguists”.

The commission didn’t discuss Bulgaria’s explanatory memorandum sent to the EU member countries. Slight progress has been made on the Middle Age period as presented in textbooks. On Ss.Cyril and Methodius, members of the Joint Multidisciplinary Commission of Experts on Historical and Education Issues agreed they are Pan-Slavonic and Christian educators.

The commission met for two days after almost a year-long hiatus because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the early elections in North Macedonia.

As historians are seeking a joint solution, the politicians have been voicing their expectations and stances.

Macedonian authorities are hopeful that the first intergovernmental conference between North Macedonia and the EU will take place in December after Bulgaria has said it might block it over the Goce Delchev issue.

Macedonian officials have been saying that intensive efforts are under way to find a solution and settle differences with Bulgaria. According to them, no intergovernmental conference in December would be a failure for everyone involved, not only North Macedonia, but also Bulgaria and Germany’s presidency of the EU.

On Friday, PM Zoran Zaev said he was hopeful that solution could be found with mutual understanding and respect. “I’m not even considering a Plan B if an intergovernmental conference isn’t held in December. We will succeed,” he stressed.

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov on Friday said that he and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are supporting the Western Balkans’ EU path.

“Bulgaria will continue to work actively in this direction during our joint Presidency with the Republic of North Macedonia at the Berlin Process. I appreciate the efforts of the German Presidency of the EU Council to find the most correct solutions to safeguard the health of all European citizens, as well as economic life,” Borissov wrote in a Facebook post.

Moreover, Bulgarian President Rumen Radev has said political solution should be found, but one cannot make compromises with history and language or demands on national minorities.

“The members of the Bulgarian-Macedonian commission are professionals, they will keep on seeking and defending the historical truth and Bulgaria’s national interest. My message to them is – politicians cannot abdicate from this crucial process for both Bulgaria and Macedonia and the EU as well,” he stated, noting it was high time a political solution to be found.

In early November, PM Zaev is expected to visit Sofia as part of the countries’ co-chairing of the Berlin Process 2020. There, he will meet with his Bulgarian counterpart for talks in an attempt to align positions.

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