In order to have enlargement there should be desire from both sides. On the one side are the countries that want accession and on the other is the public opinion in the EU member states, especially the old ones. Currently, there is no such desire in Germany, France, which does not mean suspending the negotiations process. Europe cannot allow a white spot in the Balkans which is always a source of uncertainty, of no rule of law, of behind-the-scenes dependencies. These countries have to be part of Europe, but in the same time work is needed on consolidation within the Union, said in an interview with euinside Bulgarian MEP Andrey Kovatchev (EPP) during the November plenary session of the European Parliament. Andrey Kovatchev is a member of the European Parliament's bureau, of the foreign affairs committee and of the human rights committee. In his capacity as a member of the foreign affairs committee, he often speaks on Macedonia's progress for European membership.
Not every name of Macedonia can be acceptable to Bulgaria
I asked him if he thought that Macedonia, too, needed something similar to the British-German initiative for a change of approach for Bosnia and Herzegovina. Unlike his colleague from ALDE Ivo Vajgl, Mr Kovatchev is of the opinion that the key to resolving Macedonia's problems is neither in Brussels, Athens, nor in Sofia but in Skopje. Good neighbourly relations are very important to unclog the process of integration of Macedonia to the EU, but they have two sides. Skopje conducts a dual policy, the MEP said. Abroad they say "Everything is okay, we're ready and have no problems with Bulgaria or Greece", but domestically are used issues like imposing national identity through provocation aimed at the neighbouring countries.
"We understand that this is a newly established state, which desires to create an identity of its own. In the beginning, there is a period of deviations and manipulation of history, but this cannot be tolerated for a long time", Andrey Kovatchev underscored. He hinted of another line of conflict between Macedonia and Bulgaria. According to him, although it is not a part of the negotiations between Skopje and Athens on the name of Macedonia, Bulgaria cannot accept every name. He was cautious in terms of a possible reaction, but hinted that not every name can be 100% accepted in Bulgaria. When the name is agreed and we see that it is not acceptable to Bulgaria then the country should state this clearly. "We will simply say that, so that they know that they should not open a new front with something unacceptable".
Dayton has been exhausted
Regarding Bosnia and Herzegovina, Andrey Kovatchev is not among those who welcome wholeheartedly the German-British initiative. The Dayton way of existence is exhausted. A new beginning is needed for this country so that it can function more effectively, but at this stage there is no big desire for such a new beginning among the politicians in the country, said the MEP. According to him, the European perspective is the driving force which gives energy to the rule of law, democracy, justice, tolerance toward the different religious or ethnic communities and only in this way Bosnia and Herzegovina, but also Macedonia, Albania, Kosovo, Serbia, Montenegro, continue on the path of reforms and peaceful integration to the EU, Mr Kovatchev added.
Serbia is looking at Russia with eyes wide open for an alternative
What risks does Russia hide for the European perspective of the Balkans was a question that made the MEP think in silence a tangibly long time. Russia had to be a strategic partner and to certain period of time it was. Vladimir Putin's policy now, however, is a policy of confrontation which does not lead to anything good neither for EU nor for Russia. But, still, the damages are greater for the Russian citizens because the Russian economy is under strong pressure and the country's image has been deteriorating with every signal of new aggression by Russia. Besides, the propaganda war Russia is leading against the EU "with all possible tools" also does not contribute to a good climate between the EU and Russia. There are so many problems we can work together on with Russia and the EU wants that - the fight against terrorism, climate change, global trade, economic cooperation, Mr Kovatchev said.
"That is why I don't see any reason in the 21st century to return to the methods of the 20th century of seizure of territories, violation of international law, using various means of infiltration on foreign soil, of a propaganda war. This is something we thought had stayed in the past but obviously this is not true, which is why we need the EU to be united, to avoid division", he said and added that it is very important the enlargement to continue because "Serbia looks with eyes wide open at Russia. There are so many signals that show that Russia would like to show Serbia that there is an alternative to the European integration. Is this good for the EU? I believe it is not good to have at our western border a country which will not be integrated in the EU but probably somewhere else".
Andrey Kovatchev denied that in Bulgaria there is a division on the issue of Russia. "You probably have a different statistical information. I don't know anyone who have emigrated in Moscow or Saint Petersburg", the MEP underscored. According to him, the member states have to give the high representative for foreign and security policy a chance to state a single position that will not be changed 1-2 days later by one of the capitals. Federica Mogherini raised doubts in the beginning whether she was capable to handle the calls of the post and the challenges, but she managed to disperse these doubts during her hearing. The problem is, however, that she is expected her voice to be stronger than that of the German foreign minister or the minster of foreign affairs of UK. This has to change, the MEP concluded.
*The attached video file is in Bulgarian language