Bulgaria’s Parliament approves declaration on conditional support for EU accession talks with N Macedonia, Albania

Bulgaria’s National Assembly voted on October 10 to approve a framework declaration put forward by the government on the EU accession of the Republic of North Macedonia and of Albania.

The declaration had not been on the agenda of the October 10 sitting but was added at the proposal of MP Emil Hristov.

It was sponsored by four out of five of the parliamentary groups, Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s GERB, the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party, government minority partner the United Patriots, and the National Assembly’s smallest group, Volya.

It was approved by 129 votes in favour, with four against and one abstention.

Speaking after a Cabinet meeting the day before, Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva said that the declaration spelt out support for the start of EU accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania, because excluding them would be a mistake that could lead to instability in the region.

In the case of the Republic of North Macedonia, the declaration sets out a number of conditions, including that North Macedonia does not conduct a policy backing claims of a “Macedonian minority” in Bulgaria.

It calls for North Macedonia to initiate a process of victims of the communist regime in Yugoslavia who were repressed because of seeing themselves as Bulgarians.

Bulgaria wants North Macedonia to delete texts from signs, plaques and buildings that encourage hatred towards Bulgaria, including those that use phrasing such as “Bulgarian fascist occupiers”.

Before Bulgaria will agree to the opening of the first negotiating chapter, fulfilment of these and other conditions will be reviewed. Other conditions include that the Republic of North Macedonia must clearly state that the short version of its name has nothing to do with the geographical region of north Macedonia, part of which is in Bulgarian territory.

On Albania, the framework declaration requires that country to guarantee the rights of the Bulgarian national minority “to the fullest” including teaching of Bulgarian as a mother tongue, with no administrative obstacles, in places where the Bulgarian minority traditionally lives, as well as in other places.