In brief

Bulgaria keeps on blocking start of EU accession talks with North Macedonia

Sofia wants Skopje to admit Macedonian is dialect of Bulgarian, no Macedonian minorities exist in Bulgaria

Ekaterina Zaharieva attends the meeting of ministers of Foreign Affairs of the EU countries.
Ekaterina Zaharieva attends the meeting of ministers of Foreign Affairs of the EU countries. Author: MFA Government of Bulgaria
This December’s meeting between the foreign ministers of the EU members did not led to the Bulgarian government’s unblocking of the start of EU accession talks with North Macedonia. Bulgaria argues it has reservations related to historical, linguistic and identity issues.

Bulgaria’s foreign minister Ekaterina Zaharieva said on 17 November that her government would not approve the negotiating framework between the EU and North Macedonia because “Bulgarian demands” were not “reflected” in it.

The Bulgarian government has drawn up a memorandum in which those demands are detailed. The document has not been made public. Nevertheless, news outlet Politico had access to it. According to Politico, Bulgaria wants North Macedonia to admit that Macedonian is a dialect of Bulgarian, and claims that the Macedonian identity is a Yugoslav invention.

Besides the memorandum, the Bulgarian government has also criticised the Macedonian government for allowing “anti-Bulgarian rhetoric by a number of media and politicians” in North Macedonia, and is asking Skopje to admit that no Macedonian minority exists within the Bulgarian borders.

In a statement, the government of North Macedonia has replied that the “Macedonian national identity has not been, is not and will not be the subject of negotiations.”

Both Skopje and Sofia have reiterated their willingness to continue working towards the goal of achieving North Macedonian membership in the EU.

The conflict with Bulgaria has been going on for decades, as we explained in this extensive piece on the Macedonian national identity. A similar conflict with Greece was resolved in 2019 with the change of the country’s name from Macedonia to North Macedonia.