Undoubtedly, North Macedonia continues to have a problem with its neighbors, due to the Homeric battles over the heritage of ancient Macedonia. For more than a quarter of a century, Greece hindered any international recognition of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia until it agreed to change its name in 2018 to become “North Macedonia”, in instead of “Macedonia” short, so as not to encroach with the eponymous Greek region.
Today it is the turn of Bulgaria to block the road on the way of the European Union to its neighbor to the East. Even though these countries are historically very close, as are their languages. Bulgaria was also the first country to recognize the sovereignty of North Macedonia, in 1992, during the implosion of Yugoslavia.
But she reproaches him for appropriating the heroes of the common past, and challenges him to speak Macedonian. For Sofia, Macedonian is just a Bulgarian dialect. Accordingly she proposes that he be called “Official language of the Republic of North Macedonia”.
It is because of these disputes that the Bulgarian government vetoed the launch of North Macedonia’s accession process to the European Union on November 17. “The project under discussion does not take into account Bulgarian demands and cannot be adopted”, explained Bulgarian Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva.
German diplomacy was unable to settle disputes
All German diplomacy, which presides over the destinies of the EU until the end of the year, failed to appease these disputes. Michael Roth, the German Secretary of State for European Affairs, has decided not to refer this dispute to the European summit on Thursday, November 19.
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“We support North Macedonia’s accession to the EU, but when it commits to resolving differences and applies the friendship treaty [NDLR traité signé en 2017 et qui comporte la création d’une commission d’historiens pour régler ces contentieux]. When these issues are resolved, we will agree to start negotiations ” membership, declared on November 16 Krassimir Karakatchanov, chairman of the nationalist party VMRO, member of the government coalition.
“An obsolete conception of national identity”
“A commission of historians to develop a common history is a long process that lasts for years! “ exclaims Macedonian philosopher Katerina Kolozova. With six Macedonian and Bulgarian intellectuals, the philosopher addressed an open letter to the authorities of the two countries, calling on them to “To work together on the problems of the present”.
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They point out that “The current controversy around historical issues stems from an obsolete and very restrictive conception of national identity as being eternal and unchanging, and of national history as something sacred”, in the letter translated by the Courrier des Balkans. And they fear that by focusing on the problems of the past, the negotiation process “Creates unrealistic expectations and engenders enormous risks”.
The Borissov government made “A big mistake”
For political scientist Antony Todorov, from the new Bulgarian university in Sofia, the government of Boyko Borissov did not explain how the friendship treaty had not been respected, except to mention “Anti-Bulgarian propaganda in Macedonian media, or the designation of Bulgaro-fascists to evoke the Bulgarian administration under Nazi occupation”.
“The Borissov government is contested and thus tries to re-legitimize itself with the Bulgarians”, considers the political scientist. “But he made a big mistake”, he comments. Because, according to him, it is not through government agreements that we settle questions of language and history. And because the authorities thus feed the nationalisms at work on both sides of the border, within the ruling coalition in Sofia, in the opposition in Skopje and, as a corollary, they maintain the anti-Bulgarian sentiments of a side and anti-Macedonians on the other.
“The two countries would have everything to gain from being reunited within the EU, he concludes. Nationalist demands, for example, for recognition of the Bulgarian minority in Macedonia, and Macedonian in Bulgaria would de facto lose their acuteness and would become quite marginal ”.