Wed, 18 May 2022

The new prime ministers of North Macedonia and Bulgaria agreed on January 18 to intensify efforts to improve relations between the Balkan neighbors.

Although Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov and his counterpart from North Macedonia, Dimitar Kovacevski, expressed a desire to improve relations between their countries during a meeting in Skopje, they failed to reach a breakthrough on the Bulgarian policy of blocking EU accession talks with North Macedonia.

Since 2020, Bulgaria has blocked the opening of EU membership negotiation talks with North Macedonia because of disputes over history and language, even though the issue has nothing to do with EU law.

Bulgaria's obstinance on the North Macedonia issue has frustrated the United States and other EU member states, which want Skopje to further its Western integration after joining NATO.

Bulgaria says that North Macedonia has failed to honor parts of a friendship deal signed in 2017, with a key issue being Sofia's demand that the Bulgarian minority in North Macedonia become a constitutionally recognized people like ethnic Albanians.

During the meeting, both governments agreed to form joint working groups for cooperation in economic issues, infrastructure, European integration, trade, education, culture, and history.

"We have promised each other that we will use new energy to improve our relations with respect," said Kovachevski, who became prime minister this week.

"I'm a huge optimist for the new dynamics in relations and can assure you that the results will be visible every week," said Petkov, who received the mandate to form a government last month.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Balkan Service, RFE/RL's Bulgarian Service, AP, dpa, and Reuters

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Washington DC 20036

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