Czech and Slovakia publish joint statement – won’t allow Bulgaria to rewrite history

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The foreign ministers of Czechia and Slovakia published a joint statement condemning the push by Bulgaria to include historic issues in the EU accession criteria. The column by Tomas Petricek and Ivan Korcok is published as the Slovakian Minister Korcok is about to visit Macedonia.

We have always been staunch supporters of the EU accession process – it is making not only our neighbours, but all of us stronger and safer too. Keeping the process alive has required and will always require moments when we need to seriously consider the consequences of our decisions and to be honest with ourselves. In this context, an example of the EU sending mixed signals to the aspiring countries is its approach to Macedonia. This Western Balkan country has been finding itself in the centre of the EU ambiguity for 15 years now. Over time, it had fulfilled all the conditions required, even the most difficult ones related to its own name. We doubt any current EU member state would have the capacity and will to do the same. Yet the promised reward of opening accession talks with the EU did not come. In 2019, the decision of the European Council to grant opening of the negotiations was postponed not once, but twice. Then last year, Macedonia was confronted with yet another obstacle, and yet again was asked to comply with requests related to its national identity, the two ministers write in Euobserver.

Slovakia and the Czech Republic vetoed a move by Bulgaria to introduce historic issues as criteria in the EU enlargement reports. Likely motivated by the fact that Bulgaria is pushing Macedonia to lay claim on Ss. Cyril and Methodius, who are also revered in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, the two countries stopped the move by Bulgaria, which likely wouldn’t have opened Macedonia’s EU accession talks anyway.

Moreover, in autumn last year, a new and fairly surprising request was made – to make the EU a collective judge of historical interpretations – of what is right, wrong, true and false in the past hundreds of years of history of the Balkans. Above all, at the end of the year there was a request to make this judgement a formal part of the accession criteria. This would turn the EU into an arbiter of national histories. The EU would have to ponder at every stage of the enlargement negotiation the compliance of some countries with historical interpretations of the others. It is a natural role of the EU to be a moderator and a broker. Nevertheless, it should not collectively become a referee of disputes and misunderstandings of the past hundreds of years. This would be a major deviation from the principles that have so far governed the enlargement process and that are a part of our enhanced approach – transparency and predictability. Therefore, we do not support any direction that would sanction the interpretation of historical issues – says among other things in the joint statement of Czech Republic and Slovakia.