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Our Action Plan contains no identity markers, Bulgarian response reiterates their old positions, Pendarovski tells MIA

Bulgaria's response to North Macedonia's Action Plan is no different than our eastern neighbor's well-known positions, President Stevo Pendarovski tells MIA in an exclusive interview to be published in full later today.

Skopje, 16 January 2021 (MIA) — Bulgaria’s response to North Macedonia’s Action Plan is no different than our eastern neighbor’s well-known positions, President Stevo Pendarovski tells MIA in an exclusive interview to be published in full later today.

In the interview, Pendarovski talks about the content of the Sofia’s response handed over to North Macedonia’s special envoy, stressing that there is no new agreement, no annex or protocol to the 2017 Friendship Treaty.

“There’s nothing substantially different in their positions, maybe some phrases here or there,” he says.

Asked if a solution was reachable any time soon, Pendarovski says Bulgaria might change its position only in the aftermath of its parliamentary elections.

“We’ll see after the elections in Bulgaria, not before, whether Bulgaria has been doing this because of their elections,” he says, “[or] if it is part of a decades-long state policy of the Macedonian issue.”

“At this point, we are discussing issues at the sidelines of the main problem. We are discussing infrastructure, education, the media, better connectivity in different areas, in energy,” Pendarovski adds, pointing out that the main problem is Bulgaria’s insisting that Macedonians accept they had Bulgarian roots and “that the identity markers of the Macedonian nation prior to 1944 were Bulgarian.”

“Naturally, we’ve never accepted [this claim] and we never will,” Pendarovski says.

“However, since we haven’t reached an agreement so far and Sofia hasn’t backed down and allowed us to start the first stage in December, I don’t expect anything to happen in January, February, March especially having in mind their known vocabulary,” he says, stressing that the problem would not be resolved before Bulgaria’s elections.

Still, President Pendarovski says contact with Sofia should be maintained. “We will have to restore trust in order to come to a point where we can discuss any issue without prejudice, and we can openly say what we think and what concessions are not possible.”

Pendarovski highlights he hopes the EU countries will become more aware that the integration of Western Balkan countries into the bloc is a key geopolitical issue.

“The pressure, let’s call it that way,” he adds, “will be bigger from all the EU countries that had approved the opening of negotiations with us.”

Elsewhere in the interview, President Pendarovski talks about the institutional democratic capacities of the country, its systemic shortcomings, political interference, hidden agendas, captured institutions, etc. ba/nn/mr/

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