SOFIA/SKOPJE -- Bulgaria says it does not plan to lift its veto on long-delayed accession talks between North Macedonia and the European Union over a language and history dispute with its neighbor.
“No change in Bulgaria's national position regarding the Republic of North Macedonia can be expected," caretaker Bulgarian Foreign Minister Svetlan Stoev said after meeting with visiting EU officials in Sofia on May 21.
Bulgarian President Rumen Radev said that EU enlargement in the Balkans must be based on achieving sustainable results in building good neighborly relations.
"That is why we want to see not declarations, but clear guarantees for our national security and for our national interests," Radev’s office quoted him as saying.
In November 2020, Bulgaria blocked the start of EU accession talks with North Macedonia by refusing to approve the so-called negotiation framework with Skopje.
Unanimity is required from all EU member for the adoption of the negotiating framework.
Any new developments on the issue before Bulgaria holds snap parliamentary elections on July 11 appear unlikely.
European Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement Oliver Varhelyi and Portuguese Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva, whose country holds the EU's rotating presidency, also visited North Macedonia after their talks in Sofia.
North Macedonia Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said the two EU officials presented a proposal which he said provided a “good basis” for resolving his country’s dispute with Bulgaria.
“This draft solution does not touch or encroach our Macedonian identity issues,” Zaev said, without revealing any details of the proposal.
Bulgaria, which joined the EU in 2007, wants Skopje to acknowledge that both its identity and language have Bulgarian roots.
Skopje has long insisted Macedonian is a distinct South Slavic language that forms part of the country's culture and national identity, while Sofia says Macedonian is a regional dialect of Bulgarian.
A joint commission of historians was established to resolve the standoff but has failed to find common ground.