With the growing threat that Macedonia will be left out of EU enlargement while Albania is allowed to advance, Zoran Zaev insisted that it is possible to reach a deal with Bulgaria, but added that he doesn’t want entry into the EU “at all cost”. Bulgaria is blocking Macedonia from opening its EU accession talks until it agrees to make serious concessions with its national identity and history, and currently it is without a Government, which leaves uncertainty about when negotiations can even begin.

An offer from Bulgaria was that Macedonia accepts that the Macedonian language and nation have a Bulgarian origin, and that then Bulgaria will agree to call them under their separate names. In the past Zaev was eager to reach a deal with Bulgaria, but faced strong opposition from VMRO-DPMNE as well as people in his own SDSM party.

We don’t need the EU at the price of our Macedonian identity and Macedonian language. If we give that up, who will join the EU? If we do that, we would be a lost speck of dust… Bulgaria acknowledges us and tells us that they don’t have a problem with recognizing the Macedonian language and the Macedonian people. But they tell us to determine their roots. We will find the roots if we are smart, and in a European manner. We respect our past but we are bound to create our future in the best way possible. Our region is small, the more united we are, the more benefits we will have, Zaev said during a meeting with EU Enlargement Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi.

Varhelyi confirmed that, if Macedonia remains under the Bulgarian veto, the Commission will recommend that Albania is allowed to open the EU accession talks alone, in June.

Zaev today also issued a statement on the day of the Macedonian language (May 5th) insisting that his Government is “strongly and sincerely dedicated to nurturing and advancing the Macedonian language, because the language is our national and cultural identity… So long as the Macedonian language exists, the Macedonian will exist. One of these things doesn’t go without the other”.