Petkov was confirmed as premier by Bulgarian parliament earlier this week after his party took the largest share of the vote in the elections in November. He has reaffirmed Bulgaria’s commitment to NATO, and the west.
“We are on the right side of Nato and EU policies, 100 percent,” he told the media prior to his confirmation, “We will propose a new process [on North Macedonia], very fast, with a limited timeframe, just six months long.”
Petkov also noted that North Macedonia and Bulgaria still needed to address certain issues, including the fight against hate crimes and North Macedonia’s referring to its historical connection to Bulgaria in its constitution. Still, he indicated that compromise was a possibility.
“Let the two populations start talking about the benefits of working together,” Petkov said. “Once we put the upsides on the table…discussions about compromises are much easier to have.”
“Once this is all achieved…I believe we can happily sign Macedonia into the EU,” he added.
Bulgaria’s new position comes after the government last year vetoed North Macedonia’s EU accession talks over disputes over regional history and identity. Critics of the move accused Bulgaria’s then-leader Boyko Borisov of exploiting nationalist to distract from months of protests against organised crime and corruption under his rule.
Demonstrators at the time slammed deep-rooted corruption in the country, and the degradation of rule of law. Transparency International ranks Bulgaria as the most corrupt country in the EU, and a 2019 report from the Centre for the Study of Democracy in Sofia found that at least a third of public procurement contracts involved corrupt practices.
Fresh polls in November this year saw Petkov’s centrist We Continue the Change (PP) party win a quarter of the vote. Together with his coalition partners- the Socialist party, “turbo-folk” pop star Slavi Trifonov’s anti-establishment ITN, and the liberal Democratic Bulgaria- Petkov completed the first draft of a coalition agreement earlier this week.
Petkov says his top priorities will be fighting the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and a worsening energy crisis.
The Council of the European Union has adopted new conclusions regarding country accessions to the bloc in the wake of Petkov’s comments, stating that it looks forward to holding intergovernmental conferences with North Macedonia as soon as possible.