BRUSSELS – The French proposal for resolving bilateral issues between Bulgaria and North Macedonia will bury the enlargement process and seriously hurt the already tattered image of the EU in the region, believe members of Balkans in Europe Policy Advisory Group (BiEPAG), Nikola Dimitrov and Florian Bieber.
In an op-ed for EU Observer, they stress that considering the larger geopolitical issues at stake, this seems like a risk the EU should not be willing to take.
“While the temptation might be great to push through a bad deal know to bring movement in the already stuck process, the proposal as it stands now is likely to achieve the opposite, more stagnation, more frustration, and even destabilization “write Bieber and Dimitrov.
They argue that the French proposal will only encourage extreme nationalists, adding that worrying violent incidents related to the protests in recent days show the risks of increased inter-ethnic tensions if a flawed proposal fails and citizens feel like they will be suck once more for the long run.
“The double standards are striking. Bulgaria not only refuses to implement several judgments of the European Court on Human Rights related to the freedom of assembly of Bulgarian citizens who declare to be ethnic Macedonians but insists that nothing in the accession process can be interpreted as a recognition of the existence of the Macedonian language by Sofia. The authors said that Bulgarians should be in the constitution of North Macedonia next to the Macedonian people that official Sofia doesn’t recognize “.
According to Dimitrov and Bieber, the proposal is importing bilateral issues of history and related topics in a process that should be about democratic and economic reforms, adding that for the first time in the history of enlargement, the European Commission will report on historical and related issues.
“Considering that there are minorities and bilateral issues between all the Western Balkans aspirants and their EU neighbours, it proposed “solution” does not put pandora back in the box but instead encourages each of them to put their issues on the agenda and not just hold up enlargement indefinitely, but also make it all about revisionist nationalist bullying by more powerful neighbours against those outside the EU “, explains BiEPAG members.
They recalled that, according to the French proposal, for the opening accession talks, Skopje must first change its constitution to include the Bulgarians (3,504 citizens according to the recent census) in the preamble.