WB6SG_Overcoming_historical_divisions_Bulgaria_Northmacedonia. Creator: Damir Zekovic_hbs_Sarajevo. All rights reserved.

Online discussion

Wednesday, 12. May 2021 10:00 am – 11:30 am Save in my calendar

Online discussion

Overcoming historical divisions, case study: Bulgaria - North Macedonia

Relations between North Macedonia and Bulgaria are at their lowest in decades. What will the re-arrangement of political forces in Bulgaria after the recent parliamentary elections mean for the region? The enthusiasm after signing a friendship treaty in 2017 has turned to an open dispute between the two governments over historical heritage and questions of identity of ethnic Macedonians. The Bulgarian blockade of North Macedonia’s opening talks for accession to the EU has deteriorated the fragile relationship. Bulgaria’s veto reflects an asymmetry of power between EU Member States and candidate countries and puts the EU integration process in danger.

Issues tied to language and history play into the hands of nationalists: during the last two years, several developments damaged the trust and cooperation between the two governments who are accusing each other of obstructing the 2017 friendship treaty. Skopje and Sofia are trying to come out of the current limbo. They adopted an action plan for 2017’s never implemented friendship treaty and established a bilateral expert’s commission on historical and educational matters. So far, the expert’s commission has only become the scapegoat for the deteriorated relations.

• What are the current relations between North Macedonia and Bulgaria in the context of EU enlargement?

• What does this deadlock mean for the European integration of the remaining Western Balkan countries?

• What remedies does the EU have to act against EU Member States blocking neighbouring countries?


  • Darko Leitner-Stojanov, Historian, Skopje/Vienna
  • Tchavdar Marinov, Historian, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, Sofia
  • Tineke Strik, MEP, The Greens/EFA, Brussels
  • Daliborka Uljarević, Western Balkan Strategy Group, Podgorica

Chaired by Tobias Flessenkemper, Council of Europe, Belgrade

The online discussion is held in English.

To register, please click here.

A cooperation of Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung: Sarajevo, Belgrade, Berlin, Brussels and the Western Balkans Strategy Group.

Read their latest policy statement: “When Conditionality Becomes Blackmail: EU Member States Should Not Write the History of Candidate Countries”.

The technical requirements for participating in the event are a computer, tablet or smartphone with a speaker, and depending on the event (with audience participation) optionally a camera or headset required. Online events will be held using the Zoom software, which will provide a link for participating. The access link will be provided a day prior and 2 hrs prior to the event. The event will be recorded.

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Please join the event a few minutes before its start time.

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