(DF) President Radev: “Dialogue with Bulgaria Alone Will Speed Up North Macedonia’s Progress to EU”

June 24 (BTA correspondent Nikolay Jeliazkov) – Bulgarian President Rumen Radev said here on Thursday that North Macedonia’s faster progress to the EU depends only on dialogue with Bulgaria. “Everybody should realize by now that the acceleration of the European perspective of Bulgaria’s closest neighbour depends only on the commitment and the results of the dialogue with Bulgaria,” said Radev on his way into a two-day European Council meeting. “Let it be clear: the people of North Macedonia are our brothers and we are duty-bound to help them as we have always done. Bulgaria remains open to quick and productive bilateral negotiations in the interest of both countries’ citizens,” said the head of State. He said that Bulgaria has succeeded in its insistence that greenlighting the start of accession negotiations with Skopje and Tirana be dropped from Thursday’s agenda of the EU Summit. “In the past month and a half, Bulgaria has come under incredible pressure from its European partners to give the go-ahead for the start of negotiations with North Macedonia at Thursday’s European Council”, said the President. Radev added that at the EU Council meeting in May he found Bulgaria in isolation, blamed for the blocking of the start of negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania, “The caretaker Cabinet has made enormous efforts to catch up on the years during which our partners never heard a meaningful reasoned high-level Bulgarian position. That’s why I held numerous personal meetings and talks with the leaders of the European Parliament, the European Commission, the European Council, with presidents, prime minsters, EU commissioners, with foreign minsters and the US Secretary of State,” said Radev. “I believe they realized that the criticism of Bulgaria is groundless and that we have a clear position on a way out of this problem and that we insist on reliable guarantees and sustainable and irreversible results in bilateral relations, It is time that we abandoned the familiarity diplomacy in front of the cameras and focus on pragmatic solutions. Bulgaria has proved that, despite the pressure, it is a responsible EU member and will not tolerate new problems being brought into the Union,” he said. The President pointed out that besides resisting the pressure, Bulgaria had managed to avoid tying the issue to a timeframe. “The pressure will continue, but during the last month and a half we proved that we can be open for constructive dialogue and initiate dialogue and its restart at the highest level. We won’t let our arms to be twisted through lobbying, media and political pressure,” Radev stressed. “We showed that we stand by the Copenhagen criteria for EU accession and we can’t overlook the discrimination of citizens of our neighbour just because they identify themselves as Bulgarians. Such discrimination is at variance with the European values and principles. We cannot possibly say ‘yes’ before we have seen sustainable mechanisms to root out the distorted narrative and prejudice against Bulgaria from textbooks, museums, monuments, the media and state policy. We cannot say ‘yes’ before we have been convinced that the Republic of North Macedonia will not be building its identity on a theft of Bulgarian history,” the Bulgarian head of State said. NV/PP/LG //