North Macedonia and Albania have achieved much in the field of reforms, and Brussels supports their efforts, but the delay of their European integration affects trust in the EU in the Western Balkans, said EU Commission for Enlargement Oliver Varhelyi at the Sofia Balkan Forum titled “It is time to restore trust”.
Varhelyi said that Bulgaria and North Macedonia must resolve open issues and for negotiations with Skopje and Tirana to start soon.
– Sixty-five percent of the economy of the Western Balkans is connected with the EU, which shows their logical orientation, said Varhelyi, also emphasizing in his online joining from Budapest that the region is surrounded by EU countries.
As MIA correspondent from Sofia reported, according to Varhelyi, everyone should act towards the Western Balkan countries, not as candidates, but as EU member states. Next year, Brussels will invest 30 billion euros in the region, which is 1/3 of the GDP of the Western Balkans.
The chief negotiator on behalf of the Macedonian government, Prof. Vlado Buckovski, at the Forum in Sofia said that much has been done in various fields, stressing the media area, pointing out the two national news agencies, that MIA has a correspondent in Sofia, and that in a few days BTA will receive accreditation for its correspondent in Skopje.
He said that North Macedonia has no territorial claims to Bulgaria and that this will be expressed in a diplomatic note, and that Skopje has no intention to interfere in the internal affairs of Sofia. Buckovski also said that in six years there will be a train between the two capitals, adding that North Macedonia will receive 200 million euros for construction of a road section to the border with Bulgaria.
Former Bulgarian Minister of Foreign Affairs Soloman Passy, who chaired one of the panels, said that he would buy a ticket for the first train that will run between Sofia and Skopje. He called on Bulgaria and North Macedonia to find a quick, good and permanent solution to the dispute between them, pointing out how Morocco and Israel signed an agreement for military cooperation, which was unimaginable until a year ago.
Daniel Kaddik from the European Liberal Network assessed that Russia and China are trying to obstruct the European integration of the Western Balkans and that is why everyone needs to work together in order to ensure that the European integration does not fail.
Organizer of the Sofia Balkan Forum “It is time to restore trust” is Bulgarian MEP Ilhan Kucuk, who outlined that talks about the history are important, but at the same time no less important are talks about the future. He reminded how fragile peace is in different parts of the Western Balkans, such as the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo.
– A strategic interest of Bulgaria should be for North Macedonia to become part of the EU, said Kucuk. According to him, the EU cannot be a geopolitical player, because it is not a political player.
Former Bulgarian ministers, MPs and representatives of NGOs involved in regional processes, the Ambassadors of Kosovo, Albania, Turkey and Acting Ambassador of North Macedonia to Bulgaria attended the Forum.
Translation: N. Cvetkovska