Bulgarian parliament poised to lift veto on North Macedonia

Bulgarian parliament poised to lift veto on North Macedonia

The Foreign Affairs Committee of the Bulgarian Parliament adopted on Thursday (23 June) a draft decision approving the compromise of the French Presidency of the Council of the EU (PFUE) aiming for Sofia to lift its veto on the opening of negotiations for membership for Skopje, paving the way for possible approval of the text in plenary on Friday (24 June).

The Foreign Affairs Committee, after a four-hour session, backed a draft decision submitted by Hristo Ivanov, leader of the Democratic Bulgaria (DB) electoral alliance, with 11 of its 17 members voting in favour.

Democratic Bulgaria is a modest centre-right force that is part of Kiril Petkov’s coalition government.

Two other proposals, that of Boyko Borissov’s GERB party and that of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) did not garner support and efforts to develop a consolidated version of the three texts also failed.

Foreign Minister Teodora Genchovska said that Bulgaria should not miss the opportunity to reach a solution based on the PFUE proposal, which links the stages of improving bilateral relations to negotiations for EU membership under the supervision of the European Commission.

The text of the DB stipulates that the Bulgarians must be included in the Constitution of North Macedonia, on an equal footing with the other peoples already mentioned in the Constitution of the country. It also indicates that nothing in the process of European integration of North Macedonia can be interpreted as an acknowledgment by the Bulgarian side of the existence of a “Macedonian language”. Another text indicates that good neighborly relations will be a criterion that Skopje must systematically meet.

The press service of Mr. Petkov’s party, “We pursue change”, later announced that the draft decision would be considered on Friday in a plenary session in parliament.

According to the information, the opposition GERB and DPS should not create obstacles to the quorum, the two parties had promised not to boycott the parliamentary sessions if the deputies began to resolve the dispute with North Macedonia.

The socialists of the BSP, coalition partner of Petkov, seem to support the proposal of the DB, after having rejected the texts of the GERB and the DPS. However, their position is unclear.

Socialist MP Georgi Mihailov said he did not accept such a complex issue being “put forward with extreme insistence”.

The party of Slavi Trifonov “There is such a people”, which left the government coalition, plunging the country into political chaos, as well as the pro-Russian parliamentary force Vazrazhdane (Renaissance), are strongly opposed to the text of the DB.

Toshko Yordanov, leader of the deputies of “It is such a people”, referred to the “red lines” announced by North Macedonian Prime Minister Dimitar Kovachevski on Thursday at the Western Balkans summit and Skopje’s rejection of the PFUE compromise, saying they make the Bulgarian parliament’s vote pointless.

Enlargement stalemate angers Western Balkans

On the sidelines of triumphant rhetoric over the imminent granting of EU candidate status to Ukraine and Moldova, European leaders meeting in Brussels on Thursday (June 23rd) faced frustrated Western Balkan counterparts over the lack of their own progress on the road to the EU.

Even without the votes of “There is such a people”, of the party Vazrazhdane and from the BSP, the text from the DB could pass.

The draft presented by Hristo Ivanov, which underwent minor adjustments during the discussions, should therefore be voted on in plenary on Friday.

This vote will coincide with the second day of the European Council. It could make it possible to include in the conclusions of the summit texts enabling North Macedonia and Albania to begin accession negotiations.

Outgoing Prime Minister Kiril Petkov told reporters and European leaders on Thursday that lifting the veto would only be possible with a decision by the Bulgarian National Assembly.

This article is based on a publication by SEGA and Dnevnik, media partners of EURACTIV Bulgaria.

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