The former Prime Minister of Bulgaria sees a chance to please our Western partners by reversing his current position on Northern Macedonia
Boyko Borissov loves to speak in public about his exploits on the international stage. The former Bulgarian Prime Minister has always perceived the favor of foreign heads of state as the supreme recognition of his state success. That is why he continues to brag: “For the last 4 years, while we ruled, Bulgaria was the favorite in the Balkans.”
In such cases, the GERB leader usually prefers to speak in a general and bombastic manner. That is why he noticed how often and abundantly he has been focusing on Northern Macedonia lately. Bulgaria’s relations with its southwestern neighbor have been extremely strained since Borissov’s government refused to allow it to start EU membership talks in November 2020. The stumbling block was the common history of the two countries, the content and interpretation of which we still cannot understand. Sofia’s position remained unchanged after power passed to President Rumen Radev’s office. And right now Borisov suddenly spoke in a completely different way.
The change was clearly seen in one of his long monologues on a meeting with party Komsomol members on June 13. “Radev divided the state in everything. Now they have divided the people on the topic of Northern Macedonia. Which is better – to have a neighbor member of the EU and NATO, or not? “, Asked the former prime minister. He continued: “Imagine, you are Macedonians, and your neighbors, your closest people, say: you will not go to the EU, you will not go there. Will they love you? … History is an important thing. But let the historians do the work. You now with this position: we, we, we, create such enmity that generations can be hated. “
He spoke in the same vein with Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev at their June 17th meeting. Borissov was the first to meet him on Bulgarian soil and attacked Radev’s cabinet in front of him: “… the current caretaker government has all the rights and can negotiate with you – it can sign a new contract, do whatever it wants. But they will run away from responsibility because they always do. At the same time, Euro-Atlantic partners are lying that they are “in favor” of Northern Macedonia joining the EU. ” And the next day he appeared at a GERB briefing, at which he declared: “We as politicians must find a compromise.”
The turn made by the leader of GERB is simply amazing. It was his government that blocked the start of negotiations between Skopje and Brussels on the grounds that the good-neighborly agreement it concluded with Northern Macedonia in 2017 was not being respected. Borissov divided the “Macedonian question” between two of his deputy prime ministers, Krassimir Karakachanov and Ekaterina Zaharieva. Well, would anyone seriously expect compromises and progress in the talks with Skopje, when among the leading figures on the Bulgarian side is the leader of IMRO Karakachanov, whose ideology is based mainly on the fight against Macedonianism?
And Zaharieva, then foreign minister, was apparently instructed by Borissov to pursue a more aggressive course in Bulgarian diplomacy. This is how she came to her interview with the German newspaper Die Welt against the Macedonian authorities: “They were also quite brutal to me when I dared to criticize the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the death of one of the darkest dictators – Tito … it’s like the mayor of Berlin proposing to celebrate Hitler’s death. ” and more. In general, anyone who wanted to crush the Macedonians in our country made his dream come true thanks to Borissov’s government.
The cabinet practically did not change the policy of its predecessors towards Northern Macedonia. Radev’s people refused to change the position of our country before Portugal, which leads the rotating EU presidency, and before the European Commission. We even quarreled with the Croats over their pro-Macedonian president. And Zoran Zaev, who arrived in Sofia on June 17th in the hope of influencing the new government, was forced to leave empty-handed. And just at that moment, Boyko Borissov began to appear from everywhere – for weeks now they have been hot about the divisions between nations, the ruined future of the young people on both sides and the Euro-Atlantic allies deceived by Radev.
And isn’t the GERB boss most excited about the latter – what do our Western partners think about it? Let us not forget that the European integration of Northern Macedonia (which comes in a package with Albania) has become a priority issue for European diplomats since November 2020. In practice, there is no meeting between representatives of our Foreign Ministry and another member state, which is not affected by the case. It cannot be otherwise – this is the next wave of European enlargement. And this wave broke precisely in Borissov’s government – this is how Europe and the world saw things.
However, now that he is out of power, the former prime minister has the opportunity not to follow the interests of the state, but only his own political gain. And this benefit currently dictates that he maintain behavior that is the exact opposite of his course as head of government. For him, this is a chance: first of all, to return to the lights of international politics by intervening in a case of European magnitude; secondly, to suggest that, unlike Radev and his cabinet, he is a supporter of the cause of EU enlargement and thus stands on the side of the great Western countries and the European Commission. To please them even more, nothing can say that we need to get Northern Macedonia into the Euroclub faster because of the Russian influence in the Balkans.
In fact, if GERB returns to the helm of the state tomorrow, it will most likely change its foreign policy course again. Do you notice how vague Borissov really is now? He is outraged that the caretaker government is hindering its neighbors’ European integration, but does not say anything specific about what it would have done differently if his party had ruled.
Thus, it leaves a loophole again – in case it has to turn once again if GERB enters the government again. And it will not be difficult for him – the largest political forces in our country (except perhaps the Movement for rights and freedoms – MRF) remain uncompromising against the demands of Skopje. And Borisov will be able to calmly say: I want one thing, but they force me something else. However, we will know what game he is actually playing.