site.btaUPDATED Foreign Ministry's Position on French EU Presidency Proposal Concerning Skopje

Foreign Ministry's Position on French EU Presidency Proposal Concerning Skopje
Foreign Ministry's Position on French EU Presidency Proposal Concerning Skopje
Foreign Affairs Ministry building in Sofia

The Bulgarian Foreign Ministry Sunday issued a position on the French EU Council Presidency's proposal concerning the unblocking of Skopje's EU accession negotiations.

On Friday, the parliamentary Foreign Policy Committee said it has received a French proposal for lifting Bulgaria's veto on the start of EU accession negotiations with the Republic of North Macedonia. This news and the lack of clarity on what the proposal actually says sparked an exchange of accusations between Bulgaria's institutions.

Following is the full text of the Foreign Ministry's position on the matter.

"Over the last six months, regardless of all contradictions, the Foreign Ministry continued to systematically work on finding a solution to the Republic of North Macedonia issue and on guaranteeing the Bulgarian interests. 

The Ministry was led by the understanding that a single document, regardless of its content and form, cannot possibly meet all requirements of the Framework Position, the National Assembly Declaration of 2019, and the conclusions from the Consultative Council on National Security of 2022 while also being acceptable to the EU Member States and the Republic of North Macedonia. On this basis, an option was sought to regulate the open issues through several interrelated documents: a Negotiating Framework, Conclusions of the EU Council, and a Protocol from a joint sitting under Art. 12 of the bilateral 2017 Treaty of Friendship, Goodneighbourliness and Cooperation.

None of these documents meets on its own the Bulgarian requirements but together they could meet them. The main challenge stems from the time factor. At this stage, there no longer exists an objective possibility to implement the short-term criteria set in the Framework Position by the end of the French EU Council Presidency. It is possible by its end to have clarity on the next steps in the European integration process of the Republic of North Macedonia with all necessary guarantees for the Bulgarian interests and the rights of Bulgarians in the neighbouring country. 

The Bulgarian side praises the constructive approach of France, which held a series of meetings with all Bulgarian institutions concerned and, following continuous work, showed understanding for the State's positions. France proved not only its friendship with our country but also its dedication to the EU enlargement process.  

At the same time, there still are certain aspects in the proposed draft Negotiating Framework and Conclusions of the Council on which focused work should be done to uphold the Bulgarian interest. It is key to sign the bilateral Protocol with Skopje. 

Under normal conditions and procedure, after the receipt of an official proposal by the French Presidency, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would have tabled the received documents and a report on their content and significance at the Council of Ministers. On that basis, the Council of Ministers could have adopted a decision or possibly tabled the matter for a debate in the National Assembly. Following a decision of the Council of Ministers and/or the National Assembly, the Foreign Ministry would have elaborated an official Bulgarian position to be presented at the corresponding formats at European level.  

At present, the Foreign Ministry cannot elaborate an official position and defend it at these formats, because there is no decision either by the Government or by the National Assembly. By its decision of June 15, 2022, the Council of Ministers tasked the Permanent Representation of the Republic of Bulgaria to the EU to immediately send to the parliamentary Foreign Policy Committee every European proposal deviating from the Framework Position of 2019. It was also decided that the Bulgarian representatives will not make statements on the proposal until it has been debated in the National Assembly.

In implementation of that decision, Bulgaria's Permanent Representation to the EU sent to the Foreign Policy Committee the documents proposed by the French Presidency immediately after their receipt. Also tabled was a report of the Ministry on the progress in, and the stage of, the negotiations. At the very end of the workday on June 17 (Friday), the Committee requested from the Foreign Ministry the draft bilateral protocol as well. The said draft was sent immediately along with a letter explaining its content. As at 7 p.m., there was no one at the National Assembly who could officially log these documents in. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is ready to table the requested draft protocol even today, Sunday, because even now it continues working on this matter of key importance for the country.

At this stage, the entire process depends entirely on the parliamentary Foreign Policy Committee, which is yet to schedule a meeting on the topic. It would be appropriate for the Foreign Policy Committee to immediately convene this meeting with the Ministry's participation so as to discuss all available documents, formulate a consolidated Bulgarian position, and determine the subsequent actions of the Bulgarian diplomacy. It would be optimal if ahead of the meeting, the Council of Ministers expresses its position on this matter of importance to the country. Unless that happens in the shortest term possible, the Foreign Ministry has the mandate to only adhere to the Framework Position, the National Assembly Declaration of 2019, and the conclusions of the Consultative Council on National Security of 2022, which the proposed draft Negotiating Framework by itself does not entirely meet."

/DS/

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By 16:12 on 05.07.2022 Today`s news

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