Thursday, October 29, 2009

Stern warning to Skopje from Parvanov over 'minority' claim

SOFIA (ANA-MPA - B. Borisov) Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov on Thursday warned the government in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) to retract statements regarding the existence of an ethnic 'Macedonian' minority in Bulgaria's Pirin region or jeopardise the country's prospects of joining the EU.

An announcement released by the Bulgarian presidency's press office on Thursday quotes Parvanov's stern reaction to a statement made by FYROM Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski - who referred to "Macedonians of Vardar, the Aegean and Pirin" - and his warning that Sofia's support for FYROM's EU accession was not "unconditional".

"I am bewildered by the position that has been expressed by the Prime Minister of neighbouring [FYROM]. I see it as unacceptable, as an expression of territorial claims. It is all the more unacceptable as [FYROM] aspires to become a member of the EU,” Parvanov said on Thursday, during an official visit to Australia.

Bulgaria's president stressed that Sofia's support for its neighbour's EU entry was largely dependent on that country's behaviour and he urged Skopje to immediately withdraw similar claims.

Parvanov also underlined that Skopje must fulfill the criteria for EU membership, which included that of cultivating good relations with its members.

Bulgaria's Deputy Foreign Minister Marin Raykov, who accompanied Parvanov on the trip to Australia, noted that FYROM would receive a date for the start of accession negotiations with the EU as soon as as it resolved the problems with its neighbours.

Skopje's government claims the existence of ethnic 'Macedonian' minorities in northern Greece and southwest Bulgaria; claims disputed by the governments in both those countries. It is also in a dispute with Greece over the use of the name 'Macedonia', which Athens construes as an attempt to make territorial claims against a northern Greek province with the same name.

According to the Greek argument, the name Macedonia actually describes a much broader geographic area, which spans parts of Greece, Bulgaria and also FYROM itself.

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