New conditions for Northern Macedonia – six Bulgarian requirements
The latest EU-Western Balkans Summit in Slovenia shifted further debates between Bulgaria and Northern Macedonia on Skopje’s accession to European structures. The new round of negotiations will start at the end of October and will be based on a bilateral protocol containing six demands from Bulgaria. The question is whether Skopje can meet all six points in such a short time.
For Skopje, the protocol is the “gateway” to the start of negotiations with the EU and thus the obligation to meet the requirements if it wants to move forward in the accession negotiations after 16 years.
The six points are the short and long-form of North Macedonia’s name; preventing hate speech; rehabilitating the victims of communism; greater engagement in the joint History Commission; non-interference in the other’s domestic affairs; and naming Bulgarians in North Macedonia’s Constitution.
At first glance, it may seem that the topics are appropriate in terms of neighbourly relations. However, it is essential to realize that each case hides ingrained historical wrongs and radically different past views, making it difficult to reach any agreement.
As for introducing Bulgarians to the Constitution, the North Macedonian prime minister says his government is willing to take such a step. On the other hand, the current Social Democratic government cannot assemble the two-thirds majority needed for a simple amendment of the Constitution. Another fact is that the opposition, composed mainly of nationalistic right-wing parties, would not agree to help the government with such a proposal.
For Skopje to enter European structures as soon as possible, it must meet the conditions. Provided that all goes well, the protocol will be finalized in early November, which could mean that an official start date for accession negotiations could be set during the EU General Council in December.