Bulgaria Rebukes Republic of Macedonia Leader Over EU Relations

(Bloomberg) -- Bulgarian officials rebuked the opposition-backed president of the neighboring Republic of Macedonia for rejecting a deal that seeks to unlock the former Yugoslav nation’s path into the European Union and NATO.

The premiers of Greece and the ex-Yugoslav nation on Tuesday reached an agreement to change the name of the Balkan state of 2 million to the Republic of North Macedonia. Yet President Gjorge Ivanov, supported by the nationalist VMRO-DPMNE party that was at odds with Greece for years, rejected the legislation, saying it hurts national interests.

That kind of rhetoric found little support in Bulgaria, which now holds the rotating EU presidency and has tried to draw the bloc’s attention back to the importance of the further integration of western Balkan states. Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov and Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva canceled their meetings with Ivanov during his two-day visit.

“The Bulgarian government sees no reason to be used in Skopje’s domestic political debate,” the cabinet said. “EU and NATO accession is of key importance for the future of our neighboring country and that shouldn’t be questioned.”

Bulgarian President Rumen Radev met with Ivanov, urging him to restore dialog with his government and “to avoid all possibilities of blocking the process of Republic Macedonia’s Euro-Atlantic integration.”

The deal faced another hurdle in Greece, where the main opposition New Democracy party, which strongly opposes the agreement, announced it will submit a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his government as early as Thursday, possibly threatening plans to sign it as early as this weekend. Party leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis said he will will use“all means available” to block it.

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