Bulgaria Demands Friendship Treaty from Macedonia, Vows EU Veto

Bulgaria in EU | January 23, 2013, Wednesday // 13:41|  views

Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev has indicated a harder stance towards anti-Bulgarian media propaganda in the former Yugoslav republic. File photo by BGNES

Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev has demonstrated a harder stance with respect to relations with the Republic of Macedonia, indicating that Bulgaria could use its veto right in the EU with respect to the former's accession process, unless good-neighborliness is observed.

He believes that "Bulgaria's responsible position is not to keep quiet but to impose a veto in the course of the talks for Macedonia's EU accession while being as well-intentioned as possible", as cited by bTV on Wednesday.

"We will state the problem. It was addressed very clearly. Good-neighborliness as part of the criteria for membership so that we can be part of the same family. Because if we want to be part of the same European family, this means espousing its values. And of these supreme values is good-neighborliness in itself," Bulgaria's President elaborated.

He added that in December 2012 Bulgaria in fact assumed a very responsible position because it did not technically impose a veto on Macedonia since the Council ministers of the EU nations did agree that good-neighborliness is important as is progress towards the democratic development of Macedonia.

"We have no problems with other regions or people. We have good relations. But we wish to address the problem where it exists. It is a problem, and a problem that has been very clearly defined by us – namely, those presently in power in Skopje, unfortunately, aren't observing the Declaration for Good-neighborly Relations that we signed back in 1999. We have an objective criteria – we have a declaration that is not being fulfilled. We want nothing more than that," Plevneliev elaborated.

"That's why we're saying, "Let this declaration that we came together for be turned into an agreement with a standard wording – the same that Bulgaria signed with Greece, Turkey, Romania," he added.

Plevneliev further denied claims that because of the policies of the ruling VMRO-DPMNE party and the government of Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski in Skopje, Bulgaria will be treating all Macedonians accordingly.

He elaborated that Bulgaria's arguments on Macedonia's EU accession are always clearly stated in his own statements as well as those of Prime Minister Boyko Borisov and Foreign Minister Nikolay Mladenov.

"We are requesting that our Declaration on Good-Neighborly Relations be turned into an agreement. Why? So that there are no problems among the people, and the institutions can work for what the people have achieved – namely, friendship, good-neighborliness. So let us sign our treaty, and stick to it, and Brussels will be the observer," Plevneliev said.

He revealed that Bulgaria's position on Macedonia was discussed during Tuesday's meeting of the Council of Presidents – including Plevneliev and Bulgaria's former Presidents since 1990 – Zhelyu Zhelev, Petar Stoyanov, and Georgi Parvanov.

"We had a very good debate on this topic. Unfortunately, in the recent years, Europe hasn't been observing all the rules, and very often the problems weren't addressed or solved," Plevneliev said.

The Bulgarian President also declared that Bulgaria is not "a second Greece" with regard to its policy towards the Republic of Macedonia, Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev.

Plevneliev's statement Wednesday comes amidst a continuing anti-Bulgarian media hysteria in Macedonia, after at the end of 2012 Bulgaria's President and Cabinet decided as a EU member state the nation was against the EU scheduling a date for the start of Macedonia's EU accession negotiations because of Skopje's failure to meet some membership criteria.

The anti-Bulgarian media rhetoric in Macedonia has led to comparing Bulgaria to Greece in the sense of referring to Greece's implicit veto on Macedonia's accession to NATO and the EU as the result of the so called Macedonian name dispute under which Greece demands a modification of Macedonia's name because it coincides with the name of Greek province. As a result of this dispute, Macedonia is a member of the UN under the name "Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia".

Bulgaria's President Rosen Plevneliev recently told EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele that Macedonia is not ready for EU accession talks.

Plevneliev thus in effect reiterated the position of Foreign Minister Nikolay Mladenov who recently made it clear that Bulgaria does not support Macedonia's EU entry unconditionally.

Earlier, in a special statement in August 2012, Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nikolay Mladenov reacted strongly to hate speech against Bulgaria in Macedonia media.

Since the early Middle Ages, all the way to the first half of the 20th century, Macedonia and its Slavic population were considered part of the Bulgarian nation not just by Bulgaria but also by its neighbors and the international community. This is why from its National Liberation in 1878 till 1944 Bulgaria waged five wars attempting to unite all of the Bulgarian-populated lands in the Balkans, including Macedonia – after the San Stefano Treaty of March 1878 providing one state for almost all Bulgarian-populated regions was revised three months later by the European Great Powers in the Treaty of Berlin leaving the regions of Thrace and Macedonia out of Bulgaria.

After both World War I and World War II, however, Serbia/Yugoslavia kept control of 40% of the territory of the geographic and historical region of Macedonia, the so called Vardar Macedonia (which in 1991 became the Republic of Macedonia), Greece retained about 50% of the region – the so called Aegean Macedonia, while only 10% of the region – the so called Pirin Macedonia – remained in Bulgaria.

The foundations of the contemporary Macedonian nation were laid in 1943-44 by Yugoslavia's  communists at a special congress that also proclaimed the creation of a Macedonian language and a Macedonian alphabet designed to differentiate the dialects spoken in the region of Macedonia from the Bulgarian language and to underline the creation of a distinct Macedonian national identity.

The so called question about the perceived Macedonian minority in Bulgaria exists since the late 1940s when the dictators of the Soviet Union and communist Yugoslavia – Joseph Stalin and Josip Broz Tito – attempted to arrange the post-World War II order on the Balkans through the creation of a Balkan federation between Bulgaria and Yugoslavia.

One of the provisions of this state engineering project of the two notorious communist dictators was the creation of a Macedonian republic within the future federation. For that to happen, the leadership of communist Bulgaria had to cede Pirin Macedonia to Yugoslavia in exchange for the territories of the so called Western Outlands (the towns of Tsaribrod (Dimitrovgrad) and Bosilegrad where the recognized Bulgarian minority in Serbia lives today).

This provision was accepted unconditionally by the Bulgarian communist leader Georgi Dimitrov who acted under direct orders from Stalin. As a result, in the late 1940s, the Bulgarian Communist Party undertook an unprecedented campaign to force its own population in the Pirin Region (today's Blagoevgrad District in Southwest Bulgaria) to change its Bulgarian nationality and identity into the newly invented Macedonian one, and the official census figures out of the blue recorded that 250 000 Macedonians living in Bulgaria.

The campaign to force the people of the Blagoevgrad District to become "Macedonians" was dropped by the Bulgarian Communist Party after the entire project for a Balkan federation between Bulgaria and Yugoslavia was killed with the falling out between Stalin and Tito in 1948-49 – a rift that had wide repercussions for Europe during the entire Cold War period. This left the population of Southwest Bulgaria – which was harassed by its own government on orders from Moscow – to shake off the imagined ethnic Macedonian identity imposed on it.

Ever since, however, the authorities in Skopje whose legitimacy relies primarily on the doctrine described by the Bulgarian historians as "macedonianism", i.e. the distinct national identity of the Slavic population of the region of Macedonia, have resurfaced claims of "hundreds of thousands of ethnic Macedonians" living in Bulgaria under some sort of "brutal oppression." Macedonian media cite as evidence for such claims statements by the so called ethnic Macedonian party "OMO Ilinden-Pirin", whose members according to publications in the Bulgarian media are paid from Skopje and Belgrade to declare themselves as "Macedonians."

The provocations in the Macedonian media on the "question" of "ethnic Macedonians" abroad seem to be in line with last year's construction of monuments in Skopje of Alexander the Great and the medieval Bulgarian Tsar Samuil, both of which are deemed to be great Macedonians by the government of Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and his party VMRO-DPMNE – a move that caused anger in Greece, ridicule in Bulgaria, and criticism by the European Commission.

Some 50 000 Macedonians have granted Bulgarian citizenship in the past decade, and that the figure has seen a staggering increase in the past couple of years, as many Macedonians are, in the worlds of Bulgarian historian, ex Diaspora Minister and current head of the National History Museum, Bozhidar Dimitrov, returning to their "Bulgarian roots."

As of 2010, it is much easier for Macedonians to get Bulgarian citizenship because the Bulgarian authorities no longer ask them to provide a document of Bulgarian origin – which is usually some sort of a church or municipal certificate from the time of their grandparents; instead, for the purposes of granting citizenship, the Bulgarian state has switched to assuming that all Macedonians are of Bulgarian origin.

Unlike Greece, which gets enraged by Macedonia's moves toying with the cultural heritage from the Antiquity period and is tangled with Macedonia in the notorious name dispute, Bulgaria's governments traditionally react to propaganda fits by Skopje with disregard, while the general public in Bulgaria accepts them with ridicule. To the extent that Bulgaria has made any claims towards Macedonia, those have boiled down to the refusal to allow Skopje to hijack Bulgaria's historical heritage from the Middle Ages and the 19th century Revival Period.

Bulgaria was the first sovereign nation to recognize the independence of the Republic of Macedonia in 1992.

Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev himself comes from the southwestern Bulgarian town of Gotse Delchev which is located in the wider historical and geographic region of Macedonia.

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