A new Bulgarian-Macedonian friendship?

Bulgaria and Macedonia signed a "good neighbours" agreement on August 1. This is intended to mark the beginning of a new chapter in the relations between the two countries. In concrete terms the construction of a new railway line is in the planning and both sides will strive to settle their historical differences. The media examine the chances and risks of the agreement.

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Kathimerini (GR) /

Greece left on its own

Greek-Bulgarian relations will suffer because of Sofia's new friendship with Skopje, predicts Kathimerini:

“In recent years Bulgaria and Greece have taken a joint stance against Skopje's 'aggressive nationalism', as [ex-prime minister Nikola] Gruevski put it, without an 'anti-Macedonian axis' between Athens and Sofia ever being formally established. … Now, after the signing of the much discussed pact, the Greek-Bulgarian front is 'collapsing'. … Greece is left alone with its complaints about an 'irredentist policy' and the violation of the rules of 'good neighbourliness' by the leaders of the Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia (Fyrom).”

Standart (BG) /

A good example for the Balkan region

The improved relations between Bulgaria and Macedonia will have a positive impact on other Balkan states, Standart hopes:

“Many neighbouring countries in the Balkans are at loggerheads with each other: Macedonia is in a row with Greece over the name, Kosovo with Montenegro over their joint border and there are many other contentious issues that may not be very high up on the agenda in Europe but that are hindering the progress of the entire region. With their good neighbour agreement Bulgaria and Macedonia are setting a good example for the others. … Hopefully this will encourage other Balkan states to follow suit. … As we see, this isn't all that difficult if the political will exists. Specifically, it could put Greece under pressure to seek a more constructive position on Macedonia's Nato membership.”

Duma (BG) /

Macedonia is an accident of history

In the good neighbour agreement Bulgaria and Macedonia undertake to set up an expert commission to overcome historical disputes. As far as Duma is concerned there is nothing to be cleared up:

“No Bulgarian would ever believe that prior to 1945 there was an independent 'Macedonian people' that spoke anything but a dialect of the Bulgarian language on the territory that has been mainly populated by Bulgarians for more than a thousand years. Given how irate the Macedonians become when one tries to explain their Bulgarian roots, what will happen when the historians arrive at the conclusion that before 1945 the Macedonians were Bulgarians and the Bulgarians were Macedonians? That they lived under the same Bulgarian sky and shared a common history until foreign powers decided to separate them in 1945?”

Kurir (MK) /

Zaev owes the Bulgarians a favour

News website Kurir is suspicious of the new government in Skopje's rush to improve relations with Bulgaria:

“Is it possible that Zoran Zaev travelled to Bulgaria after just 15 days in office, warmly embracing [Prime Minister] Borisov and assuring him that the 'good neighbours' agreement is going to be signed - all without prior approval of the Bulgarian intelligence services? … This shows that the Bulgarian intelligence services have been working with Zaev for years, helping him to rise to power in Macedonia. Now it's clear that the rumours about two intelligence services - one from further afield and one from a neighbouring country - being involved in toppling the previous government were not unfounded. And now the first thing Zaev does is to show his gratitude to the neighbours.”

Nova Makedonija (MK) /

Social Democrats' dubious U-turn

The bid by Macedonian Social Democrats to make friends with Bulgaria reeks of cynicism for Nova Makedonija:

“Do the Bulgarian politicians and citizens actually know who poisoned the atmosphere against them year after year, casting aspersions and maligning Bulgarian culture as evil and vile in order to pull a fast one on their political opponents? ... They surely have no idea that these are the very same people who are now seeking to sign a friendship agreement with them: those who as the henchmen of Belgrade and Greater Serbian interests spread anti-Bulgarian hatred and propaganda against the Bulgarians, cursing all their enemies as dirty Bulgarian pigs. Yes indeed, it was the Social Democrats who for two decades rode the wave of anti-Bulgarian propaganda. ”

24 Chasa (BG) /

A surprising rapprochement

Finally the squabblers are coming to their senses, 24 Chasa writes in delight:

“Mutual distrust between neighbouring countries is the most normal thing in the world in the Balkans. There's no cure for the paranoid schizophrenia with which we live in this region, and it will no doubt remain with us for a long time to come. For that reason it's almost hard to believe that after almost 20 years of senseless quarrelling Bulgaria and Macedonia have finally taken a step towards one another.”

euinside (BG) /

Back towards Europe

Macedonia is finally heading back towards Europe under Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, Adelina Marini writes on her blog euinside:

“Macedonia had started to sink like a black hole in the Balkans - after long years under the authoritarian leadership of the [right-wing nationalist] VMRO-DPMNE and the severe, two-year political crisis that reached its climax with the bloody storming of parliament in Skopje at the end of April. The country's new government was viewed sceptically at first, but compared with the past twelve years it has already made significant progress. The most important task for Zoran Zaev's government is first of all to regain the confidence of Greece and Bulgaria so as to put Macedonia back on the path that leads to Europe.”