Ex-Prime Minister of Bulgaria on RN Macedonia: There must be Guarantees in the Negotiating Framework!
For Bulgaria, the future of Europe excludes the "two-speed Europe" option. The Negotiating Framework for the Republic of North Macedonia must include guarantees that the 2017 Treaty will be implemented both in terms of reflecting the Common History in textbooks and in view of abandoning the old claims to Bulgaria from Yugoslav times. Just as no one can challenge the right of some of today's citizens of RN Macedonia to self-identify as Macedonians, so it is not acceptable to challenge the self-determination of their ancestors as Bulgarians. Fearing the historical memory of its citizens and seeking to replace it, it has not reached the necessary democratic maturity to start EU membership negotiations. Corridor 8 is not only a transport project but also a geopolitical message.
This was stated in an interview with BGNES by the Ambassador of Bulgaria to the United Kingdom, His Excellency Marin Raykov, Prime Minister and Foreign Minister in 2013.
BGNES Agency published the full text of the interview with Ambassador Marin Raykov.
BGNES: Mr. Raykov, as a former caretaker Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, I would like to ask you how you see the priorities of Bulgarian foreign policy in 2022?
Marin Raykov: The priorities of a foreign policy reflect the way in which the objective interests of the nation are refracted in the program of the executive branch. In the last 15 years, in the conditions of its membership in the EU and since 2004 as a NATO country, Bulgaria has built a clear foreign policy identity. It is a given that everyone respects. At the same time, the topics we and our entire Euro-Atlantic area are facing today are many. Added to the obvious geopolitical challenges are the economic consequences of the covid crisis, which have the potential to accelerate changes in the balance of power in the global economy. Inflation risks, rising energy prices, the demographic crisis are just some of the big picture. Bulgaria will have to be the most active in the forthcoming European responses. They, in turn, are related to the main topics of the French presidency, which begins in 2022: strengthening European sovereignty, guarding European borders, reform of the Schengen area, which Bulgaria will join because it has met all the criteria, building "Europe of Defense", an important element of which will be Bulgaria and its military-industrial complex, introduction of a new model of economic growth and achieving carbon neutrality of the European economy with horizon 2050, protection of the rule of law and last but not least - launch on the French insistence on working together in the field of European history, because history is key to the identity of the nations that are part of our European political space.
For Bulgaria, these goals are part of a common shared vision for the future of Europe, which excludes what some call a "two-speed Europe". In this context are our efforts to join the euro area, our active position in the debate on the Green Deal and our efforts to protect our interests, our full participation in the Common Foreign and Security Policy. I would not miss the protection of the Bulgarian communities abroad as an unavoidable element of our foreign policy strategy.
BGNES: Do you think that the security challenges in the adjacent and neighboring EU regions will put Bulgarian foreign policy in front of dilemmas for which our society is not fully ready?
Marin Raykov: Regional issues have always been at the center of our foreign policy interests, especially those related to security issues in the immediate vicinity of the EU and NATO. In our part of the world, some are trying to force their vision of the future of European security architecture, and this is an occasion for very serious but also cold-blooded reflection among NATO countries. Deescalation has no reasonable alternative. We, the Bulgarians, are aware that we are jointly and severally responsible for the adequacy of any response to security challenges - in the Black Sea region, in the Balkans in general and, of course, more broadly.
BGNES: At this very moment of uncertainty, the focus of our dialogue with a key partner such as the United Kingdom remains under the mark of Brexit. What is the Bulgarian vision?
Marin Raykov: I expect efforts to regulate at European level some of the economic consequences of Brexit and our relations with the United Kingdom in general. We remain allies and share very close views on most regional security issues. It has been repeatedly emphasized that the British have left the EU, but not Europe, and remain one of the pillars of our security architecture. More urgent than ever is the issue of building the deepest cooperation of Bulgaria with the United Kingdom not only in the field of security but also in trade, energy, investment and of course in view of the problems of the large Bulgarian community in Britain and thousands of Britons living or studying in Bulgaria. The past year has not brought the desired dynamics in our political dialogue due to the shift of focus on the negotiations following the Brexit, due to the covid crisis, and last but not least due to the three rounds of parliamentary elections in Bulgaria. But I hope that in 2022 we will be able to focus on a really specific strategic vision for Bulgarian-British relations.
BGNES: Mr. Raykov, the New Year is an occasion for retrospectives and search for solutions. Where is the solution for a quick resolvement to the dispute between Bulgaria and Rn Macedonia?
Marin Raykov: Yes, indeed, this time of year reminds us that on January 7, 1945, the Yugoslav authorities and local collaborators launched a campaign to forcibly de-Bulgarianize Vardar Macedonia, known as Bloody Christmas. The shootings in Skopje and in the barracks in Stip and the suppression of the military riots of our compatriots against the Yugoslav authorities, which were joined en masse by civilians, were only the beginning of the bloody repression that took the lives of thousands of Macedonian Bulgarians who refused to accept ethnic engineering. This tragic page should not be closed without being read. It will not be possible to seek indulgence for the committed crimes by European legitimization of the ideology in the name of which they were committed. To set foot on the path to Europe, RN Macedonia will have to go through its catharsis - one that all former communist countries that joined the EU have gone through. In July last year, UN High Representative for Bosnia Valentin Inzko declared it a crime to deny the Yugoslav extermination in Srebrenica. What the Yugoslav regime did at different times could not be treated differently.
Otherwise, the Bulgarian position is clear and the desire today is more about how to upgrade it with another positive signal. Because the problem has long been not bilateral, but European and its solution is important because Skopje's European perspective is irrevocable and at the same time inseparable from the observance of the following European principles.
First, the contracts are being implemented. It is normal for Bulgaria to insist in the Negotiating Framework for the Republic of Macedonia on guarantees that the 2017 Treaty will be implemented - both in terms of reflecting the Common History in textbooks and in view of abandoning the old claims to Bulgaria from Yugoslav times. . Guarantees in the Negotiating Framework are also needed due to the persistent threats of the anti-European opposition in the RNM that it will sabotage the agreements with Bulgaria and Greece. In fact, the implementation of the 2017 Treaty is already a condition in the latest Council Conclusions, which is why the issue is indeed European.
Secondly, human rights are an indispensable condition of the EU. Our southwestern neighbor has its own specific legal regulation of ethnic realities and in accordance with it, Macedonian Bulgarians must be treated equally with other peoples in RN Macedonia, finding their adequate place in the Basic Law, but also in the institutions. Their discrimination is incompatible with the European ambitions of our Skopje friends. Apart from that, the children of Macedonian Bulgarians cannot be forced to learn untenable and stigmatizing theories about their own origins. A government that fears the historical memory of its citizens and seeks to replace it has not reached the necessary democratic maturity to begin membership talks.
Third, the ability to share an identity is one of the values that define us as Europeans. Europe is a family of shared identities, not of ethnic engineering and artificial differentiation. The right to free self-determination of the individual is sacred. Just as no one can challenge the right of some of today's citizens of RN Macedonia to self-identify as Macedonians, so it is not acceptable to challenge the self-determination of their ancestors as Bulgarians.
In parallel with these inalienable European principles, we can relatively quickly create a climate suitable for finding a solution with the political will of the other side, building on our existing dialogue with efforts to intensify economic and cultural cooperation. Corridor 8 is not only a transport project but also a geopolitical message. Common educational projects are also a unique opportunity to promote European values among our friends. Figuratively speaking, the door is open.
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