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Northern Macedonia fires chief negotiator with Bulgaria

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The change came after Sofia produced bad news for Skopje

The government of Northern Macedonia has relieved Vlado Buchkovski of his post as chief negotiator with Bulgaria, BNR reported on Tuesday. The castling comes a day after Bulgarian National Security Advisory Council (NSAC) to Bulgarian President Rumen Radev refused to give the neighboring country time to start negotiations with the EU.

At this stage, no reasons have been announced for ending Buchkovski’s term, or whether a new chief negotiator will be appointed. At the same time, it became clear that due to quarantine, Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov will postpone his visit to Skopje, scheduled for January 18th.

Vlado Buchkovski was appointed special envoy at the end of 2020, and last year his term was extended for another year. He was released on the eve of the inauguration of the new cabinet with Prime Minister Dimitar Kovachevski. Buchkovski is a former prime minister and former defense minister of Macedonia.

“I was honored to be the government’s special representative for relations with Bulgaria over the past 13 months. I was appointed two weeks after the blockade of Bulgaria under extremely difficult circumstances. Mutual trust was violated and hate speech prevailed, “Vlado Buchkovski, the former Special Representative of the Government of the Republic of Northern Macedonia for the Republic of Bulgaria, told MIA.

The National Security Advisory Council (NSAC), convened by President Rumen Radev over the dispute with Northern Macedonia, has effectively reaffirmed Bulgaria’s strong position. This became clear from the opinion of the body, adopted after a meeting lasting more than 5 hours, and announced by the head of state to the media.

The Council announced the topic “Integration of the Western Balkans into the EU. The role of the Republic of Bulgaria in the enlargement of the EU and in the process of stabilization and association: the Republic of Northern Macedonia and Albania. It was attended by a number of leading state and political figures – Prime Minister Kiril Petkov, National Assembly Speaker Nikola Minchev, Desislava Atanasova of GERB-UDF, Christian Vigenin of BSP, Mustafa Karaday of MRF, Toshko Yordanov of ITN, Kostadin Kostadinov of Vazrazhdane. Hristo Ivanov from the State Security, the Ministers of Interior Boyko Rashkov, the Ministers of Finance Asen Vassilev and the Minister of Defense Stefan Yanev, and others. This means that the opinion expressed by him must be accepted by consensus for all major state institutions and political forces in our country.

The CCNS found that four years after the signing of the Neighborhood Agreement in 2017, Northern Macedonia has not done what is necessary to implement it. Bulgaria is the first to recognize the independent Macedonian state and does not deny the right of its citizens to self-determination. At the same time, however, our country maintains the equality of Macedonian Bulgarians with other nations in our southwestern neighbor. Their rights cannot be negotiated – this is the unequivocal opinion of the council.

The participants in the CCNS agreed that comprehensive actions are needed to restore trust between the two countries and to intensify efforts in all areas of mutual interest. This is expected to contribute to overcoming the stalemate in bilateral relations.

In this regard, a number of proposals to the executive and legislature were approved: in conducting foreign policy, the Council of Ministers to implement Bulgaria’s national position in compliance with the Neighborhood Agreement, the framework position adopted by the Bulgarian government in 2019 and the accompanying declaration at the 44th National Assembly; giving consent for negotiations should not be bound by deadlines, but by achieving real results, including with regard to the rights of Macedonian Bulgarians; the executive to draw up and secure an action plan to make tangible progress in all areas of bilateral relations; to propose the establishment of joint working groups with Skopje by district; to take measures for the construction of the Transport Corridor №8, together with Northern Macedonia and Albania; The National Assembly should propose to the legislative body of the Macedonian state to establish a structured dialogue that would strengthen trust.

The Council reaffirmed Bulgaria’s position on Albania’s readiness to start EU membership talks.

Before the beginning of the council, the IMRO organized a demonstration in front of Dondukov 2. The party announced that a national referendum should be organized in which Bulgarian citizens should decide on the issue.

Boyko Borissov defined NSAC as unnecessary

The next day, former Prime Minister Boyko Borissov was sharply critical of the work of the CIS. He announced that what was outlined as priorities in the council’s opinion was already included in the neighborhood agreement.

“Unnecessary NSAC … to show that the presidency is the upper house of parliament and the president reduces the tasks of the parties, parliament and government. Can the prime minister not speak after NSAC? Everyone ran away together,” the leader commented.

Red lines drawn in Skopje

“Regarding our positions, which were approved by our National Assembly – the Macedonian language, the Macedonian identity, these are our” red lines “, because we are Macedonians living in the RNM” – said the new Prime Minister of our southwestern neighbor Dimitar Kovachevski, quoted by BGNES.

“It is good to negotiate issues that are for the future. This is the number one task, because in this way we can restore trust, first and foremost between the two governments, and trust between the citizens of both countries. Neighboring countries must have the greatest possible trade and economic cooperation. These are the priorities we have to achieve, “he commented.

Kovachevski expressed hope that the Bulgarian CIS has confirmed that we need to negotiate things that will lead to a better standard of living for the citizens of both countries. “Only in this way will we restore trust and leave no room for propagandists who create a bad atmosphere among the citizens of both countries, but also in the countries themselves,” he added.

In the meantime, it was understood that President Stevo Pendarovski intends to receive representatives of the Macedonian organizations in our country – OMO Ilinden Pirin and OMO Ilinden. The meeting will take place at the request of the associations and is similar to the one held by the Bulgarian head of state last year in Bulgaria with organizations of Macedonian Bulgarians.

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