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Government Coalition Discusses North Macedonia

The council of the government coalition is discussing on Friday night North Macedonia in the context of Bulgaria’s veto on the start of Skopje’s EU accession talks. On May 20, Prime Minister Kiril Petkov urged President Rumen Radev to convene a meeting of the Consultative Council on National Security (CCNS) on the state of play of the Bulgaria-North Macedonia talks. Petkov said in a video address that the Bulgarian government would act only on the basis of a broad national consensus and in line with the coalition agreement.
The Prime Minister said that the CCNS meeting should be attended by all parties, all services and the presidential institution and that the Foreign Ministry should submit a report on the state of play of the Sofia-Skopje talks, which is under discussion by the coalition council on Friday. 
While visiting Rome on May 22-23, Petkov said the CCNS should take stock of the progress in the Sofia-Skopje dialogue in the last six months.
Bulgaria has refused to give a green light to the start of Skopje’s accession talks before it ends hate speech against Bulgaria, stops distorting historic facts and discriminating against Bulgarians.
Parliament Deputy Chairman Atanas Atanassov (Democratic Bulgaria) told reporters before the meeting that he did not expect to learn anything new about North Macedonia on Friday and spoke in favour of a CCNS meeting. Bulgaria has a national interest to have allies all around it, but its partners in North Macedonia are not helping in any way. He voiced concern that no progress had been made in the last six months. He said the budget revision due this summer could also be discussed by the coalition council.
In contrast, Stanislav Balabanov (There Is Such a People) said there is no need to hold a CCNS meeting because Bulgaria has spelled out what it expects from North Macedonia and all the parliamentary parties have clear positions. He presumed that the Prime Minister might need a new CCNS meeting because Petkov’s foreign policy team and the Foreign Ministry were not on the same page about the start of Skopje’s EU accession talks, with the Prime Minister aiming to see faster progress.
In mid-April, Foreign Minister Teodora Genchovska admitted that the Foreign Ministry and Prime Minister Kiril Petkov’s foreign policy team pursued different courses as regards North Macedonia.
Balabanov said one of the things North Macedonia should do is start amending its Constitution and state that the Bulgarian people has the same rights as all other peoples. “Not a minority, but a people with equal rights,” he added.
Bulgarian Socialist Party leader Kornelia Ninova, who is Deputy Prime Minister and Economy and Industry Minister, told reporters on Thursday that the CCNS should be convened. 
President Rumen Radev told reporters earlier on Friday that he expected the coalition council to stick to the position and proposals reached with a consensus by the CCNS in January. He called on the coalition council to stand up for the Bulgarian interest and demand that North Macedonia meet the Copenhagen accession criteria, which are based on human rights and non-discrimination. “If all this happens, we will help the Republic of North Macedonia in the best possible way to make steady progress along this path,” said Radev.