How nationalism undermines EU enlargement and values: the Macedonia-Bulgaria controversy
On the 8th of December 2020, Bulgaria refused to accept the negotiating framework for the start of accession talks with North Macedonia at a meeting of European Affairs ministers from every EU country. This has, for the moment, dashed the Balkan republic’s hopes of eventual European integration. Bulgaria said previously that it would use its veto due to contentions with its neighbour over history and language.
The Sofia government wants its Macedonian counterparts to accept the Bulgarian position on certain historical topics and to remove the term ‘Macedonian language’ from the negotiating framework because it considers it to be a Bulgarian dialect, although it was recognised as a distinct tongue by the UN in 1977. In an attempt to appease Sofia, the EU Enlargement Conclusions were amended to include a clause proposed by Germany stating that candidate countries should end the “misinterpretation of history”. Although Berlin claimed that this would apply to Macedonia and Bulgaria equally, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Austria, rejected the amendment. In a joint statement the Czech and Slovak foreign