Politico called out European Enlargement Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi for not exerting more pressure on Bulgaria to help the Zaev regime in Macedonia. According to the news site, Varhelyi reserves a low grade (C) for his overall efforts and the dispute with Bulgaria is named as his “worst moment”.
Worst moments: Bulgaria’s block on the launch of membership talks with (North) Macedonia due to a bilateral dispute over language and identity dealt a blow to the Commission’s aim of starting negotiations before year-end. Some diplomats accuse Varhelyi of being too soft on Sofia but most say the main problem is that the center-right European People’s Party (EPP) alliance has not been tough enough on Bulgarian leader Boyko Borissov, an EPP prime minister. A recurring criticism of Varhelyi is that he is too sensitive to Hungarian interests, rather than the EU’s as a whole. “When he talks about Serbia, he seems ready to close his eyes” because of close ties between Serbia and Hungary in the energy sector, one diplomat said. An EU official rejected these allegations, saying he operates the same way as other commissioners, writes Politico, which is frequently critical of Hungary and Poland.
The Commissioner gets praise for reorganizing the EU accession process after the French veto of Macedonia and Albania in 2019, though. Macedonia has turned to more powerful countries and institutions in an attempt to drum up support and put pressure on Bulgaria. Germany is seen as the main actor here and some US officials also expressed support for Zaev, but it seems that this has only made Bulgaria become more obstinate.