The dispute between Bulgaria and North Macedonia could escalate into a “frozen conflict” if outstanding issues are not resolved in the near future, Foreign Minister Bujar Osmani told Bulgarian television BTV in an interview.
The two countries are currently embroiled in a culture, heritage and language dispute. Sofia has vetoed Macedonia’s EU accession over Albania, keeping both countries in the bloc’s waiting room. Bulgaria is demanding changes to the Macedonian constitution, but Skopje argues that it has already made many concessions and EU accession should move forward with other issues to be resolved later.
“I think that in the future there will be less and less strength and energy and courage for every politician to deal with this issue courageously. Therefore, I am afraid that in a month or two this will turn into a frozen conflict that will last for years, with all the consequences that will come from our relations, our internal politics and the opportunities for the region,” said the foreign minister said.
“I am convinced that in the second half of this year we will not have the same strength to fully engage in solving this problem with all the energy of the government as we are doing now,” Osmani added.
The European Union is determined to continue its efforts to start negotiations before the end of the French EU presidency at a crucial time, EU Enlargement Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi said after meeting Prime Minister Dimitar Kovačevski on Wednesday (27 April).
The EU official also stressed that he remains solely committed to the principles of respect for European values and talks based on respect and dignity, as agreed with Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov, in order to establish dialogue and relations on that basis build up.
North Macedonia has fulfilled its commitments and continues to act fully in line with EU policies, Prime Minister Kovačevski said, adding that his country has once again shown that it is a worthy partner of European countries and deserves final participation in the first IGC with the EU.