SOFIA -- Bulgaria's President Rumen Radev said on January 10 that officials in Sofia want "real results" from Skopje toward the conditions of a 2017 treaty on good relations before they drop their opposition to North Macedonia's European Union membership talks.
Speaking after a meeting of Bulgaria's National Security Advisory Council (NSAC) on relations with North Macedonia, Radev said all NSAC members agreed that the start of North Macedonia's EU membership talks should be tied to achieving conditions set out in the 2017 Treaty of Friendship and Good Neighborliness.
That suggests that the Bulgarian presidency, the cabinet of ministers, and the political opposition in Sofia all agree on conditions for lifting the veto on EU talks.
A key issue for Sofia is that Bulgarians in North Macedonia must be equal to other constitutionally recognized peoples there.
Radev says there must be full equality and that the rights of Bulgarians in North Macedonia must be guaranteed under the constitution and the "institutional architecture" of the country.
Only then, Radev says, will Bulgaria give its approval for the start of Skopje's EU membership negotiations.
The issue is nonnegotiable, Radev added.
Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov's coalition government also has cited progress on the treaty between Sofia and Skopje as crucial.
Petkov's government has promised to work on resolving remaining disputes between the two Balkan countries, indicating that a six-month deadline for normalizing relations was realistic.
The NSAC meeting in Sofia was held a week before Petkov makes his first official visit to North Macedonia since taking office in December.
Petkov is due in Skopje on January 18 to mark the 30th anniversary of Bulgaria's recognition of North Macedonia's independence from the former Yugoslavia.