Rumen Radev: Macedonian Bulgarians, their equal rights in the political, social, cultural and economic life of the Republic of North Macedonia and the strict implementation of the 2017 Treaty, are the key to the EU's door

2021-10-27 11:28:00
President Radev met with representatives of organisations of the Macedonian Bulgarians, among which the Civic Democratic Union (CDU) political party, the associations Ivan Mihailov Cultural Centre - Bitola, Tribuna - Prilep, Macedonian-Bulgarian Friendship - Skopje, Corridor 8 - Skopje, Interaction - Ohrid, and Unity - Kocani, during their first ever visit to Sofia. Vice President Iliana Iotova also attended the meeting. 
In his address to the guests, President Radev stressed that Bulgaria as a whole, as a society and as a country had started an important and positive, albeit belated, change in its attitude towards the Republic of North Macedonia (RNM). So far, relations have been mainly along the Sofia-Skopje line, which have failed to sufficiently involve the Bulgarian community in the RNM in policy-making and decision-making processes. This is changing, the Head of State said. Bulgaria stands firmly behind the Macedonian Bulgarians in their endeavour for equal rights along with all other parts of the peoples in the RNM. This is also the position that President Radev firmly defended both before the leaders of the European institutions and the leaders attending the EU–Western Balkans Summit on 6 October. "It is because of you that I have been confidently defending this stance," Rumen Radev told the representatives of the organisations of the Macedonian Bulgarians. 
In his opinion, the Macedonian Bulgarians should be united for the sake of the common goal - the end of the de-Bulgarisation and the practical implementation of rights and equality through the Constitution, through the laws and the census, and above all through practical actions. Bulgaria's Constitution obliges Bulgarian institutions to protect its citizens both in Bulgaria and abroad. This is also enshrined in Article 11(4) of the 2017 Treaty of Friendship, Neighbourhood and Cooperation. Bulgaria will not interfere in the internal affairs of the RNM, but it supports the demand of the Macedonian Bulgarians to ensure their equal rights through the Constitution and the laws of the RNM, and for their adequate census. In this respect, Bulgaria will do no more, but no less than any of the other countries of the region, which also have parts of peoples on the territory of the RNM and that maintain structured formal relations with their compatriots there.
The President explicitly assured the visitors that regardless of the geopolitical context, regardless of how Bulgaria's broader interests were projected in Europe and in the world, the Bulgarian state would not sacrifice the interests of the Macedonian Bulgarians for equality and a dignified life, for the right to political, economic, cultural, historical and any other expression. According to President Radev, it is this, along with the encroachment on the historical and cultural heritage common to all Bulgarians, as well as the hate speech and other hostile acts that continue to be a daily occurrence, along with the non-compliance with the 2017 Treaty of Friendship, that is delaying Bulgaria's consent to allow the RNM to start EU membership negotiations.
The President added that a process of formulating a new policy towards the RNM is underway, which, within the existing positions of the Bulgarian Parliament, places a stronger emphasis on the welfare of the Macedonian Bulgarians.  A special place in this policy will be occupied by the Bulgarian citizenship, which concerns Bulgarians in the world in general. Obtaining Bulgarian citizenship should be made easier and faster and should be transformed from an administrative procedure into a formal act. The Bulgarian citizenship is also a citizenship of the European Union and it should be a source of pride, Rumen Radev said. This also raises the question of the rights and obligations of people who become both Bulgarian and European citizens. The entitlement to these rights and obligations, the full involvement in the political, social, economic and cultural life of both the RNM and Bulgaria is an important manifestation of civic responsibility.
This will also be a worthy response to those who belittle the importance of the Bulgarian European citizenship. This is a non-recognition of the documented facts of origin, as well as a belittling of the free expression of Bulgarian identity. These speculations, which are offensive to all Bulgarians, must be firmly refuted, it has become clear from the President's words. 
The Head of State stressed again that the RNM's EU membership is conditional on stopping the de-Bulgarisation. It is the common task of all Bulgarians, both in Bulgaria and in the RNM, to protect in a fair way the common heritage and memory of their parents and compatriots to the most distant sources of history, to ensure to the Macedonian Bulgarians a dignified life and equal rights with all other citizens of the RNM. President Radev honoured the memory of personalities such as Pande Eftimov, Vladimir Pankov, Jovan Stojanovski and many others who gave their lives defending the rights and dignity of the Bulgarians in Macedonia. 
The Head of State expects the leaders of the political parties, who will also meet with the representatives of the organisations of the Macedonian Bulgarians, to listen carefully to their voice and declare their support for the common cause.


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