Influx of Anti-Bulgarian Rhetoric by the Macedonian Elite

World » SOUTHEAST EUROPE | April 20, 2022, Wednesday // 10:24
Bulgaria: Influx of Anti-Bulgarian Rhetoric by the Macedonian Elite North Macedonia’s President Stevo Pendarovski (left), Macedonian Prime Minister Dimitar Kovachevski (center), Foreign Minister Bujar Osmani (right)

Accusations against Bulgaria of provocation and calls for the suspension of the Good Neighborly Relations Agreement were voiced by Macedonian politicians and members of the public after the visit of Vice President Iliana Yotova and Prime Minister Kiril Petkov to Bitola last week, BGNES reported.

The reason for the stormy reaction was the opening on Saturday of the Bulgarian Cultural Center "Ivan Mihailov" in Bitola, which was attended by Foreign Minister Teodora Genchovska and MPs from various political forces.

As has been repeatedly emphasized, the dissatisfaction among politicians was due to the choice of the name of the club - "Ivan Mihailov".

North Macedonia’s president Stevo Pendarovski said that "naming a cultural site of a person who is a proven collaborator of the fascist regime of World War II does not help the rapprochement between Sofia and Skopje.”

Macedonian Prime Minister Dimitar Kovachevski also took a stand on the issue, saying that Ivan Mihailov is a controversial historical figure who is perceived differently in the RNM by different people. He called on the Bulgarian authorities to allow the opening of a cultural center for Macedonians in Bulgaria. During a press conference dedicated specifically to the issue, Foreign Minister Bujar Osmani said that "choosing the name of the Bulgarian cultural club was a provocation".

"The Republic of Macedonia made a strategic mistake by signing the Treaty of Good Neighborliness and Cooperation with Bulgaria, which put us at a disadvantage," said Maryan Gorchev, a former Macedonian ambassador to Bulgaria. The big problem, he said, is the adoption of the term "common history", which entitles Sofia to intervene for the Bulgarian minority in Macedonia. "What common history we are talking about when the Macedonian anti-fascist struggle and the Third Reich of Bulgaria are two opposing sides in history. This is a provocation on the part of Bulgaria,” Gjorchev added.

"Bulgaria's fascist past cannot be presented as a European virtue," said former Macedonian Parliament Speaker Stoyan Andov. "With its current policy, the Bulgarian government is attacking basic Euro-Atlantic values. And this cannot but overshadow the overall internal relations in the EU and even in NATO."

Rasela Mizrahi, an MP from VMRO-DPMNE, said that "the Vancho Mihailov Club, named after a man with fascist views, is a provocation that has nothing to do with good neighborliness."

Her ally Iliya Dimovski called for an end to negotiations with Bulgaria, which directly or indirectly affect history and national identity.

Sofia Kunovska, a former member of the ruling SDSM party, said the Good Neighborly Relations Agreement with Bulgaria had been violated in at least two articles, prompting its suspension.

There was also a reaction from the Albanian community. In a statement, Alliance leader for the Albanians Ziadin Sela said "neighbors must recognize each other" and called on Bulgaria to recognize the existence of a Macedonian minority and Macedonia on the existence of a Bulgarian minority.

Former Deputy Prime Minister for European Integration Nikola Dimitrov also joined the joint choir against Bulgaria. "Macedonian policy not only feeds Bulgaria's appetite and confirms that the veto is productive and works in their favor, but also does not take into account the dignity of the Macedonian people, who rightly feel affected and wronged, including yesterday's parade in Bitola," he wrote on his Facebook account.

“Democracy does not give the right to offend others. If Bulgaria wants us to be a friendly country, it must change its rhetoric,” said Petar Todorov, a member of the Joint Commission on History and Education between Bulgaria and RN Macedonia.

Another historian, well known for his anti-Bulgarian rhetoric, Todor Chepreganov, accused Bulgaria, with the presence of Iliana Yotova and Kiril Petkov of giving "full legitimacy to Nazi fascism, assassinations and complete denial of a neighbor in the 21st century”. "In this case, Petkov and the political entourage that came with him to Macedonia amnestied and rehabilitated an ethnic Macedonian with a foreign national identity who did not recognize the Macedonian nation, language and culture and fought for the Bulgarinization of Macedonians."

The famous "columnist" Erol Rizaov also contributed to the rhetoric and wrote that what happened was a "new Bulgarian administrative occupation". "The long-standing Bulgarian veto with the resurrection of Vancho Mihailov grew into a new administrative occupation of Macedonia's future not to be a member of the European Union."

It should be emphasized that all accusations of Macedonian politicians against Bulgaria were immediately spread by all Serbian media in detail.

In fact, it is still unclear what is the reason for accusing the Bulgarian authorities of opening a cultural club in Bitola, which, as all politicians said, is a constitutional right of the citizens of RN Macedonia with Bulgarian identity. Probably they never understood that Sofia did not order it to bear the name of a figure emblematic of the history of IMRO, such as Ivan Mihailov. And the Bulgarian delegation present at the opening was there at the invitation of its hosts from the Ivan Mihailov Cultural Center. But it is obviously important to look for reasons to sharpen the tone and to nurture hate speech against Bulgaria, because otherwise Macedonian citizens may open their eyes and decide that their neighbors are not so evil and that the blame for the troubles and lack of progress courtesy of their politicians.

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Tags: Macedonian, Bulgaria, rhetoric, politician
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