Bulgarian PM urges North Macedonia to show ‘guts’ and accept French deal on EU membership

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Bulgaria’s outgoing Prime Minister Kiril Petkov on Friday urged his North Macedonian counterpart Dimitar Kovačevski to be courageous and to simply accept a French-led compromise that may open the door for Skopje to begin formal membership talks with the EU.

But Petkov acknowledged that doing so may collapse Kovačevski’s authorities, simply as Petkov himself confronted — and misplaced — a confidence vote on Wednesday.

“At the end of the day, I know it’s very politically hard,” Petkov stated in an interview with POLITICO in Brussels simply as the Bulgarian parliament was expected to vote on Friday to elevate a longstanding block on North Macedonia’s accession talks.

“And I know that the risk of toppling the government is — it’s a big risk,” he continued.

“As a politician, one has to decide, what is my purpose in this place? Is my purpose to be stable? Or is my purpose to lead the nation — take it a step forward — that is not comfortably going there. And I think this is the decision, Dimitar Kovačevski has to do now. If I was him, on his side, I would not even think twice. If he can go in history by opening the door for North Macedonia into the EU, I think it’s a good … achievement for a prime minister. But it takes guts.”

Petkov on Wednesday misplaced a no-confidence vote after political rivals capitalized on the controversial dispute with North Macedonia to topple his governing coalition. Petkov stated he would signal his resignation letter on Monday, and that he expects Bulgaria to carry new parliamentary elections.

Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov | Andrej Cukic/EFE by way of EPA

Petkov is in Brussels to attend a summit of the European Council the place Bulgaria has come beneath sharp criticism for obstructing North Macedonia’s accession talks, not simply from Kovačevski and other Western Balkans leaders but additionally a number of the EU’s most influential heads of state and governance.

“Is it fair vis-à-vis North Macedonia? I’m going to say it very honestly: no,” French President Emmanuel Macron informed the press at a summit of EU leaders on Thursday evening. “This is also why we have collectively put a lot of pressure on Bulgaria these last months.”

Macron praised Petkov, who the French president stated “has done everything” however he stated that North Macedonia was a sufferer of Bulgaria’s inner politics.

“It is also the result of a political crisis in Bulgaria,” Macron stated.

Petkov, within the interview on Friday morning, stated that the compromise put ahead by France needs to be seen as a “European deal” and never as an accord solely between Bulgaria and North Macedonia. Historically, Bulgaria has been a significant champion of granting EU membership to nations within the Western Balkans, and Petkov stated that this remained the case. But he additionally stated that there have been critical points concerning the rights of ethnic Bulgarians in North Macedonia, and that these residents wanted stronger protections within the North Macedonia structure.

“This is not Bulgaria versus North Macedonia now,” Petkov stated. “If this decision is taken, it should be the European deal on the table in North Macedonia.”

Petkov insisted that he had demonstrated the mandatory political bravery to battle entrenched pursuits, clamp down on corruption and push for a take care of Skopje.

“If our government would have been the most stable in the world, we would not have this discussion at all,” he stated. “If we had closed one eye to the old corrupt practices, and we were not so outspoken against, for example, using gas as a weapon within bloc … now you would have had a not very vocal, very stable nation in the EU. But what we would have missed is the ability for the sides to say, ‘Okay, well, we want to move faster.’ So I’m more than happy to have paid the price now with this vote of no confidence. Because that’s the only way change happens. Otherwise, you’re stuck in the — in the slum.”

Maïa de la Baume contributed reporting.

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