Radev: Bulgaria pursues a friendly policy towards the Republic of North Macedonia, but it does not face an adequate, reciprocal policy from the other side

2022-05-04 12:41:00
The European perspective of the Republic of North Macedonia has no alternative, President Rumen Radev says at the opening of a national conference in memory of Gotse Delchev
Bulgaria pursues a friendly policy towards the Republic of North Macedonia, but does not face an adequate, reciprocal policy from the other side and currently an anti-Bulgarian campaign is raging in our neighbour. Unfortunately, state institutions, politicians, media and political parties are also involved in it. This is what President Rumen Radev said at the opening of the National Conference "European Perspective on Good Neighbourly Relations between the Republic of Bulgaria and the Republic of North Macedonia". The Head of State called for frankness in the dialogue between the two countries so that the relations develop progressively. The forum is under the patronage of the Head of State and is being held on the day marking 119 years since the death of the great Bulgarian revolutionary Gotse Delchev. The conference is sponsored by the Institute for Historical Studies at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences and the Macedonian Scientific Institute. It was attended by Vice President Iliana Iotova, prominent historians, diplomats, journalists, representatives of organisations of the Macedonian Bulgarians, as well as representatives of the Macedonian Patriotic Organization in the United States and Canada. The ambassadors of France, Austria and Greece were also among the conferees.
Over the past three decades, Bulgaria has done a lot for the development of relations with the Republic of North Macedonia, the Head of State noted and recalled that it was Bulgaria that had been the first to recognise the independence of the young state in 1992. We were always there with an outstretched hand to help in economic and political isolation, in regional and internal conflicts, in crises and disasters, the President added. He also acknowledged Bulgaria's unconditional support for North Macedonia's membership in NATO. The President pointed out that despite Bulgaria's efforts, the cohesion processes, especially in the area of connectivity, were blocked, as the Treaty of Friendship, Good Neighbourliness and Cooperation, signed with great hopes in 2017, was not being implemented and the work of the Joint Commission on Historical and Educational Issues was blocked. As an example of the serious problems with the rights of the Macedonian Bulgarians, the President highlighted the census in North Macedonia last year. 
The Head of State also mentioned the pressure being exerted on Bulgaria by our international partners and European institutions to change its position on the Republic of North Macedonia (RNM), including against the backdrop of the war in Ukraine, used as an argument for the immediate integration of the RNM into the EU, even at the cost of heavy compromises on our part for the sake of Europe's stability.
The European perspective of the RNM has no alternative, this is the strategic goal not only of the Bulgarian foreign policy, but also of our society, the Head of State said at the opening of the conference. He expressed his confidence that sooner or later the desire of the people on both sides for full communication without barriers and borders would lead to the abolition of artificial divisions.
The Head of State praised the work of the two new governments in Bulgaria and the RNM for cooperation in a number of areas, with a calendar schedule by weeks. I continue to urge the two prime ministers for a calendar timetable and resolution of the outstanding political issues, the President stressed. According to him, if these issues remain unresolved, it would hamper the other efforts of the two governments to bring the two countries closer.
We are facing a very important historical issue, a historical choice regarding the European integration of the RNM, the Head of State stressed. In his words, this issue concerns not only our foreign policy and bilateral relations. It deeply affects the foundations of our national identity, our self-confidence as full European citizens, our dignity as a nation that has contributed to the cultural development of the continent, President Rumen Radev said. He added that the issue of the integration of the RNM into the EU also affected the sustainability and the future of the Union, although it is not understood in all its dimensions by the European institutions and many of our partners.
The Head of State also stressed that it was necessary to make sure that the negotiations on the EU membership of the RNM started as soon as possible, but at the same time a clear barrier should be set against militant Macedonism. 
As President, I cannot compromise with the rights of the Macedonian Bulgarians, because their equal rights together with the other peoples should be guaranteed in the Constitution of the Republic of North Macedonia, the Head of State stressed, adding that this was a clear barrier to stop the processes of de-Bulgarisation in the RNM. I cannot compromise with our history, our cultural and historical heritage and identity, Radev further said, adding that he could not accept the theft of history and its replacement. The President also reiterated his call for an end to hate speech, which required changing history and geography textbooks and reflecting historical truth. I cannot accept that the young generation in our friendly neighbour is being educated in a spirit of hatred towards Bulgarians and all things Bulgarian. We cannot accept it because we are responsible for the future of our two countries and their relations, the Head of State stressed. He pointed out that he could not compromise with Bulgaria's responsibility as a democratic state towards the future of the EU, adding that although the potential of Macedonism to destabilise the EU in the future was not being realised among our country's partners, Bulgaria should be responsible towards this issue. The President quoted Bulgaria's Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Marin Raykov, who was also present at the event, who said that Bulgaria should integrate partners into the EU, not problems.
There is no way to move forward if the archives of the Yugoslav totalitarian communist services are not revealed to clarify the thousands of shattered human fates, persecuted and murdered people just because they decided to continue calling themselves Bulgarians, Radev said. He clarified that he was not saying this with the idea of seeking retribution, but stressed that the RNM should not be an exception compared to all the countries of Eastern Europe, which had already experienced their catharsis of breaking with their totalitarian past and taking the path of democracy.
I have always said that Bulgaria should agree to start the negotiation process after the RNM changes its constitution and enlists the Macedonian Bulgarians on an equal footing with other parts of peoples, the President said. He was adamant that the constitutional change should happen before Bulgaria gives its consent because of the trust lost over the years. Radev gave the example of the Treaty of Friendship, Good Neighbourliness and Cooperation, which was signed five years ago, but nothing has changed politically in this period. What is the guarantee that in the next five years something will change in a positive direction, the President wondered. He also raised the issue of the mechanisms the EU will use to guarantee the Bulgarian national interest and its sustainability in relation to this problem. In his words, if a unilateral declaration is offered as a guarantee, it would not have legally binding force. Inscribing only one word, 'Bulgarians, alongside other parts of peoples, would mean accepting the European idea and accepting the Copenhagen criteria, the Head of State stressed.
If the parliament and the government of the RNM do not have the political will to fulfil the Copenhagen criteria for membership in their most important part - human rights and non-discrimination, then what national goal are we talking about for our neighbour to become an EU member," the President asked in connection with the internal political problems of our neighbour and the statements about the lack of a 2/3rd majority in the RNM parliament. In his words, consolidation on this issue would be a clear sign whether the RNM was ready to be a member of the EU.
The pressure on Bulgaria, unfortunately, is enormous and it is paradoxical that the pressure is mostly on the member state and less on the applicant country, Rumen Radev noted. According to him, the pressure is due to the lack of understanding of the profundity of the historical problems. The President added that the pressure was particularly strong last year during the two European Council meetings attended by the Bulgarian Head of State. At that time, the launch of negotiations was planned to take place, but it was not allowed because of the successful defence of the Bulgarian position. So far we have been very shy and as if we did not want to look at the fact that there are Bulgarians in the RNM and only when the rights of these Macedonian Bulgarians were brought to the fore did our partners start to understand the big problem that needs to be solved, the Head of State said.
The President regretted that Bulgarian intellectuals, who swear by European values, ignore them, calling for an unconditional change in the Bulgarian position. The same intellectuals, claiming to be staunch anti-communists, legitimise the ideas of the communist international, Rumen Radev said.
Rumen Radev drew attention to the draft resolution 741 of the US Congress, which provides for September to be declared the month of the Macedonian language, history and cultural contribution of Macedonians to the development of the United States. When one reads it, one is indeed extremely impressed. This is being done under the nose of Bulgarian diplomacy, the President said. He congratulated the Macedonian patriotic organisations in the United States, which had written a letter to the US Congress, saying that this means disregarding their rights and identity and substituting historical truth. In their letter, the Macedonian Bulgarians recalled that many of their compatriots and ancestors had left written evidence of their Bulgarian origins, and expressed disagreement that their geographical, regional Macedonian identity as Macedonian Bulgarians should be transformed into an ethnic Macedonian identity.
Defending and expanding the Bulgarian cultural space around the world needs a single centre that would unite the efforts that are currently scattered in different ministries, the Head of State said. In his words, it is necessary to create such a centre with a clear strategy for the inclusion of our communities abroad to Bulgaria.


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