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Politics

Bulgaria Upholds Veto on North Macedonia EU Accession Talks

SOFIA, Bulgaria — Bulgaria on Friday ruled out a possible reversal of its veto of the European Union starting long-delayed membership talks with North Macedonia because of disputes over history and language.

Following a meeting with visiting EU officials, Bulgarian caretaker Foreign Minister Svetlan Stoev said that no change can be expected in his country's position regarding North Macedonia. 

Bulgaria's stance was adopted by all parties in parliament, and the current interim government has no authority to change it, Stoev told European Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement Oliver Varhelyi and Portuguese Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva, whose country holds the EU's rotating presidency.

The stalemate further reduces the chances for a solution of the dispute ahead of the EU accession talks, which are scheduled for June.

Bulgaria is set to hold an early parliamentary election on July 11, and any new developments before that date seem unlikely.

Bulgaria wants North Macedonia to formally recognize that its language has Bulgarian roots and to stamp out allegedly anti-Bulgarian rhetoric. Skopje says its identity and language are not open to discussion.

A commission of historians from both countries has been set up to resolve the standoff, but so far it has failed to reach common ground.

"Our goal is to create the necessary conditions for restoring dialogue between Sofia and Skopje via concrete positive steps, including at the highest level, which can serve as a foundation for a future regular government to work on returning the relations between Bulgaria and the Republic of North Macedonia to the appropriate level," Stoev said.

Bulgaria, which joined the EU in 2007, has been an active supporter of letting the six Western Balkan countries into the 27-nation bloc, which could help improve living standards and insulate the region from the influence of Russia and China.

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