Bulgarian Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva gave an interview for the Zoom news site in which she said that Macedonia began to avoid implementation of the 2017 Zaev – Borisov treaty after it became a NATO member state. Bulgaria and Greece were first to ratify Macedonia’s NATO membership in 2019, under the imposed name North Macedonia, which somewhat strengthened Macedonia’s hand after decades of blackmail from Greece.

We noticed a gradual decline in the implementation of the obligations from the treaty as soon as you became a NATO member. I don’t want to think that the treaty was signed just so you will get to our “yes” and then the implementation will stop, Zaharieva said.

The treaty imposes a move to adopt a joint historic narrative between the two countries, and Bulgaria is using its stronger position to demand concessions from Macedonia. As frustration over what Bulgaria considers a slow implementation of the treaty grew, Bulgarian politicians and ultimately its Parliament, called on Macedonia to also make concessions with its national identity, eventually leading to the Bulgarian veto of Macedonia’s EU accession.

In a measured interview with Zoom, Zaharieva insisted that Bulgaria recognized Macedonia’s national identity when it recognized Macedonia’ independence in 1991, as the first country to do so. Bulgaria agrees that Macedonians can call themselves Macedonians but wants the meaning of the term changed so that it means a newly minted nation of people who were Bulgarians for most of their history.

Your politicians know that we don’t deny your identity. But before the Macedonian society and before European politicians they present the situations as if we do. The constant insulting statements and lies aimed at the Bulgarian positions and the Bulgarian people harm our bilateral relations and can lead to changes in Bulgarian attitudes, Zaharieva warned.