The Foreign Ministry will Demand the Access of Bulgarian Citizens to North Macedonia to be Ensured

Politics » DIPLOMACY | January 27, 2023, Friday // 13:26
Bulgaria: The Foreign Ministry will Demand the Access of Bulgarian Citizens to North Macedonia to be Ensured Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs Nikolay Milkov

Bulgaria will demand with a note to provide access to people traveling to North Macedonia for the worshiping of the Gotse Delchev memorial on February 4. Representatives of the Bulgarian embassy there will also take part in the celebrations. This was announced by the Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nikolay Milkov, during a briefing where he reported on the work done by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs during the mandate of the caretaker government.

"It is crucial to ensure the safety and tranquility of the Bulgarians there. Ensuring unhindered worship and these celebrations on February 4 is an element of that.

We want to achieve de-escalation. We do not shy away from such dialogue. Our Prime Minister will have a telephone conversation with the Macedonian PM Kovachevski, one of the main elements of which will be ensuring the security of Bulgarian citizens there in general, as well as regarding what is about to happen on the fourth.

We strive for such a de-escalation, but it should not return to the situation of a week ago, because that would be concretizing the repression," Milkov pointed out.

The foreign minister pointed out that if North Macedonia impedes the access of Bulgarian citizens, it would be unprecedented.

"If this happens, it will be unprecedented. I have no information that two member states have declared their citizens persona non grata. This will be unprecedented and will require an unprecedented response," he said.

Bulgaria will seek assurances from the authorities in North Macedonia that the local institutions will fulfill their functions.

"Bulgarians and people with Bulgarian self-awareness do not trust the Macedonian institutions. Such complaints that they submit are not considered, or if they are considered, they receive a negative result, and these Bulgarians become victims of harassment and threats.

We need to be assured that the Macedonian institutions will begin their functions. The Consumer Protection Commission, instead of looking into the reports, turned against them.

Under this pressure, which is exerted there, the Bulgarians in North Macedonia do not have many options - either they have to stop their activities and bow down, or return to Bulgaria. That has to be part of our dialogue there so that this vicious cycle can be broken - they complain, and it backfires on them. A Bulgarian club was attacked, the members of that club were called to the police for questioning and it is not known in what capacity. This is the main problem, that no matter what mechanisms we put in place, if the institutions are not in place, there will be no results," he pointed out.

The organization of elections

Preparations for the vote on April 2 have already begun, he also announced. Milkov considered the organization of the parliamentary elections on October 2 successful.

According to him, there is a tendency to continuously change the electoral rules regarding the organization of the vote abroad, which complicates the process.

"Additional complications are constantly being created to the way elections are organized abroad. We are sending tens of tons of material all over the world in very short periods of time. This creates a significant effort and is a risk to the successful organization of elections. It is a rubber band that is constantly being stretched and everyone hopes it doesn't break at some point," Milkov said.

The war in Ukraine and sanctions against Russia

Regarding the war in Ukraine, Milkov pointed out that our country has remained a "strong link within NATO". 870,000 Ukrainians have passed through our territory since the beginning of the conflict, and over 140,000 have found refuge.

"Sanctions were imposed on Russia, during which Bulgaria showed flexibility and a creative approach in terms of remaining a serious and reliable partner within the EU and at the same time preserving Bulgarian interests so that no damage is done to our economy," pointed out Milkov.

Schengen membership

Despite all efforts, Bulgaria remains outside Schengen for the time being, but it has never had so much support for its accession, noted the foreign minister.

"Support from such large countries is very important because it is active support - it means talks and lobbying to make this happen. The Austrian position has nothing to do with Bulgaria's readiness. Unfortunately, Bulgaria remains a hostage to internal relations and due to the imperfections of Schengen, it comes out , that we remain outside of it, which is the paradox," he pointed out.

Milkov defined as paradoxical the position of the Netherlands, in which Bulgaria's success with the elimination of the monitoring mechanism in 2019 has become an obstacle for our acceptance into Schengen. A new report is due to prove Bulgaria's readiness for Schengen. Currently, negotiations are underway between our country, the Netherlands and the EC, in which to establish the specific criteria and conditions that would change the position of the Netherlands.

Minister Milkov predicted that it is possible for our country to become part of Schengen this fall and specified that Romania does not seek separation from Bulgaria upon joining the Schengen area.

For our part, we are working with the Netherlands and with the EC to establish what criteria will be in the evaluation report and how deep these criteria should go.

The accession of Bulgaria to the OECD

The foreign minister noted positives in the process of Bulgaria's accession to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and predicted that if efforts in this direction continue, our country could be accepted within 2-3 years.

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Tags: Bulgaria, north macedonia, Gotse Delchev, milkov

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