Bulgarian Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva reiterated that the country will block Macedonia from opening EU accession talks, since not enough progress was made in meeting Bulgarian demands. Zaharieva had an urgent meeting with German diplomats earlier this week and Chancellor Merkel spoke with both Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov and Zoran Zaev hoping that accession talks will open by the end of year, but so far no visible progress has been made.

We stated our position very clearly. Last year the Government submitted a declaration to the Parliament that was supported by all parties, and therefore our position on Macedonia is not new. We have unity on this issue, Zaharieva said.

She accused Macedonia of not doing enough to implement the 2017 Zaev – Borisov treaty. One of the issues Bulgaria blames on Macedonia is the raising of the rights of the Macedonian minority in Bulgaria. Although Macedonian officials are careful not to make any statement in this direction, members of the European Parliament raised it as part of their investigation of the Bulgarian rule of law issues – the ECHR court in Strasbourg found Bulgaria in violation as it would not allow the establishment of Macedonian cultural and political organizations.

Zaharieva also said that Bulgaria does not want the recognition of a Bulgarian minority in Macedonia, but instead the right for all people in Macedonia who want to to freely declare their Bulgarian identity. This is in line with the Bulgarian position that the Macedonian nation is not unique and separate, but derived from the Bulgarian. In this regard, Bulgaria wants to have decisions by a committee of historians, where the Macedonian members, under strong political pressure, acknowledged the shared heritage of several historic figures, to be popularized with the public. “The results of the work of the committee have not reached the Macedonian society and this means that the effects of the work of the committee are minimal”, Zaharieva said – which leads to Bulgarian requests for rewriting of Macedonian history books.

Additionally, Zaharieva objected to hate speech against Bulgaria from unspecified Macedonian sources. Again, Government officials are very careful what they say in the delicate situation they are in, but the Bulgarian veto threats have predictably caused an outpouring of angry comments by citizens on the social media – in both countries.

We still haven’t agreed on all issues and we can’t say “yes”. Prime Minister Borisov explained to Chancellor Angela Merkel that the progress made is not sufficient, Zaharieva said.