With four F-16/Block 52+ aircraft of the 337 Squadron, the Hellenic Air Force today participated in a mission to escort two U.S. B-1B bombing planes inside the Skopje Flight Information Region, and flew over Skopje, the capital of Greece's northern neighbour, as announced by the Greek General Staff.
The U.S. aircraft carried out a Long Range Strategic Bomber Task Force Mission above European countries and in the Black Sea region, highlighting the cooperation and interoperability of NATO allies, the statement added.
Greece's northern neighbour became NATO’s 30th member on March 27, following the settlement of its name dispute with Greece in 2018.
Friday’s ceremonial flight was watched by U.S. Ambassador to Skopje, Kate Marie Byrnes and the country’s Defence Minister, Radmila Sekerinska, the Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA-MPA) reported.
As Greece's northern neighbour has a virtually non-existing air force, Greece is now responsible for the protection of its airspace.
According to the ANA-MPA, Sekerinska said the Covid-19 pandemic must not overshadow the country’s membership in NATO and the approval for the start of talks for its accession to the European Union.
However this could prove to be a difficult task as Bulgaria has given a list of conditions to Skopje if they want to be able to join the European Union and not be vetoed by Sofia, as reported by Greek City Times.
Bulgaria is asking Skopje to drop claims that there is a “Macedonian” minority in Bulgaria and to stop claiming the existence of a “Macedonian language.”
“North Macedonia” claims that a “Macedonian” minority exists in Bulgaria’s western Blagoevgrad Province, something ardently rejected by Sofia.
The Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Bulgarian Language, the Cyril and Methodius Scientific Center and the Institute for Historical Research have all rejected that a “Macedonian language” exists.
In addition to renouncing the existence of a “Macedonian” minority in Bulgaria and the existence of a “Macedonian” language, Bulgaria has demanded that a joint scientific committee of experts on historical and educational issues be set up under the Friendship and Good Neighbourhood Treaty signed by the two countries.