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(DF) Bulgaria Agrees to Use “North Macedonia” Name

January 18 (BTA special correspondent Ivan Lazarov) – At a joint news conference with Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov in Skopje on Tuesday, the Prime Minister of the Republic of North Macedonia, Dimitar Kovacevski, said that Bulgaria has agreed to use the name “North Macedonia” instead of “Republic of North Macedonia”. He described this as a big step towards the new chapter in bilateral relations and as leading to greater bilateral cooperation. The news conference took place after a tete-a-tete meeting between Petkov and Kovacevski, held within Tuesday’s visit to Skopje of the Bulgarian Prime Minister and a government delegation led by him. On the delegation are Foreign Minister Teodora Genchovska, Transport and Communications Minister Nikolai Sabev and National Assembly Deputy Chair Kristian Vigenin. “Macedonians and Bulgarians are very close brotherly peoples. That is why we are beginning to solve the open [bilateral] matters to build a new future,” Kovacevski went on to say at the joint news conference. In his words, they have agreed that Bulgaria will accept to use the name “North Macedonia”, for which a note has been sent to the UN. Also, the bilateral cross-border cooperation agreement for 2022-2029 will be finalized, which will lead to the opening of the Klepalo border control checkpoint, Kovacevski said. It has been agreed to hold a joint sitting of the two governments in Sofia on January 25, Kovacevski also said. “Here you can always expect to be among good friends,” Kovacevski told the Bulgarian Prime Minister. He recalled that Tuesday’s visit coincides with the 30th anniversary of the recognition of his country by Bulgaria. Prime Minister Petkov said that within 60 days there will be direct flights between Sofia and Skopje. The exact parameters will be ready within 30 days, he specified. He said Bulgaria respects the self-determination of citizens in North Macedonia as well as all languages listed in the Constitution. “We will continue to approach these matters in the spirit of utmost respect,” Petkov noted. Petkov and Kovacevski agreed that bilateral working groups will be set up in various domains: infrastructure, economy, trade, business-to-business exchange, education, culture, and history and education. Kovacevski commented that these domains are considered to be most important for the future of the citizens, particularly young people. The groups will comprise not just politicians but also professionals active in the respective domains. “Work of high intensity is planned in these areas. The groups will update the public on what has been achieved and what can be expected in the future,” Kovacevski explained. He noted that the history commission already has a working plan and should provide information about what it has agreed based on the relevant methodology and the facts. Taking a journalist’s question about language use, the Prime Minister of the Republic of North Macedonia recalled that the two countries have agreements signed in their respective official languages. “Our Macedonian language is part of the United Nations Charter and the other multilateral constitutions and organizations to which we belong.” Kovacevski went on to say: “Progress in the work of the commissions will mean a better life for all citizens and greater closeness between the citizens of our two countries. Matters of history will be lower on the agenda. At the top of the agenda will be the building of good relations between the citizens and the strengthening of cooperation between them, which will give us enough impetus and arguments to make the final step forward to achieve concord with Bulgaria and finally see the beginning of the EU accession negotiations with Macedonia.” According to Petkov, every week there will be a meeting of one or another of the newly established groups. In this way, the groups will prove that “goodneighbourliness is not just a matter of political talk but will yield real results”. “We are focusing on every opportunity to enrich our relations,” Petkov noted. Summing up the results of his visit, the Bulgarian Prime Minister singled out two main successes: the North Macedonia name note sent to the United Nations and the real prospect of launching a scheduled air service between Sofia and Skopje within 60 days. The note to the UN says that the Republic of North Macedonia is the same thing as North Macedonia, and the name refers to the territory of the country, which has no territorial claims. This implies that Bulgaria can safely use the short name, North Macedonia. As for the air service, the details are to be sorted out in the next 30 days, and the service itself can go into operation within 60 days, Petkov said. He said the project ought to make business sense, which can be achieved by using the Sofia-Skopje service as a connection to other destinations. Also within 60 days, North Macedonia will send an ambassador to Bulgaria who will be proactive, young and business-minded, Petkov said. The country has not had an ambassador to Bulgaria since 2020. The sides have drawn up a schedule of meetings for the five bilateral working groups. Their work will be coordinated by the Foreign Ministry, Petkov said. Each group will meet once a month, which practically means there will be a meeting every week. “The fate of our countries depends on us. When trust is at the basis, the results will come more quickly,” Petkov told Bulgarian journalists after meeting with Prime Minister Dimitar Kovacevski and President Stevo Pendarovski. The rights of those North Macedonia citizens who have Bulgarian self-awareness will be a top priority, Petkov said, expressing hope that hate speech will be abandoned. He noted that during a visit to the BTA Press Club in Skopje, Prime Minister Kovacevski showed his personal commitment to resolving the matter when he asked to be notified about any acts of vandalism against Bulgarian symbols or property in North Macedonia. The Government Information Service said that Petkov’s visit is a clear sign of the Bulgarian Government’s determination to open new dialogue with Skopje and the next steps to be outlined that the two countries need to take to solve the open bilateral matters. DS/VE //