Bulgaria’s Borisov optimistic over prospects of resolving FYROM name dispute

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov on Wednesday expressed optimism over the prospects of a solution for FYROM’s name, in exclusive statements to the Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA) in Strasbourg, while being careful to refer to Greece’s northern neighbour only by the name of its capital, Skopje.

Presenting the priorities of Bulgaria’s EU presidency, Borisov expressed his support for direct talks between Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and FYROM Prime Minister Zoran Zaev. He also noted that if Tsipras and Zaev needed Bulgaria’s help, he would “give it immediately”.

“I support a discussion between them; I know them, if they need help I will give it immediately but the two of them must decide,” he said. Bulgaria, he added, will only be pleased if there are excellent relations between Athens and Skopje, in the same way that Sofia now enjoys excellent relations with both Skopje and Athens.

Asked by the ANA to comment on the dispute between Athens and Skopje, Borisov was emphatic in saying that he truly desired that the issue between the two neighbouring countries should be resolved.

“My counterpart Alexis Tsipras and my counterpart Zoran Zaev are extremely serious people,” he said. He expressed the opinion that the two sides should first resolve the issue on a bilateral level: “As we did with Zaev, when we signed a good neighbourhood agreement and this was ratified by Skopje’s parliament, Alexis Tsipras and Zoran Zaev should first resolve the matter between them.”

“I know that any intervention, even a proposal for cooperation – do not forget that we are hot-headed nations in the Balkans – will not be well received,” Bulgaria’s premier added.

He also expressed optimism that a solution will be found “because we must show that we are wiser and that we don’t want to go to Europe with problems but with resolved problems.”

“Greece,” he added in statements to the ANA, using the country’s Greek name ‘Ellada’, “has been great for so many centuries. We will find a way.”

Regarding the Bulgarian EU presidency’s positions, Borisov stressed the need to continue and intensify cohesion policies and to make the western Balkans part of the EU. He also called for dialogue with the Visegrad Four, noting that they must ratify the Dublin Treaty.