Bulgarian "no" is to Macedonia's advantage
Skopje must put falsification of the past behind if it is to join the EU
15 December, 2012
The Bulgarian government's decision to say "no" to starting negotiations for Macedonia's EU accession was just as historic as the one on 15 January 1992 that made Bulgaria the first country to recognize the independence of Macedonia. Odd as it may seem, not only aren't the two decisions conflicting, but they are in the interest of Macedonia itself. How, then, did it come to Bulgarian "no" in the context of Bulgaria's consistent policy with regard to Macedonia? The 1992 recognition was underlain by the need to defuse the domestic political tensions fuelled by expectations of Yugo-army intervention. Moreover, it created international legal hurdles to a potential aggressor, warning of possible regional complications outside the Yugoslavian framework, thus turning into a strong prevention factor against possible involvement of Macedonia in the area of forceful imposition of the Serbian scenario for preserving the Yugo-federation.Bulgaria took a decision to recognize Macedonian sovereignty in line with its own national interests. It is very important to recall that the recognition was unconditional although the Macedonian nation has been chipped off in the last decades at the expense of Bulgaria's people and history. It is a known fact that the Macedonian nation formation came as implementation and evolution of the Serbian political ideology of the late 19 c., propped by a resolution of the Communist International in Moscow in 1934 and put into practice after 1944 on the territory of Vardar Macedonia, which was included in Yugoslavia as part of the new federation. Macedonian nationalistic doctrine was forced on Vardar Macedonia with a totalitarian Communist state's specific methods and means: terror and repressions against those who described themselves as Bulgarians, rewriting of history by means of education and media, counterfeiting documents, artefacts and historical monuments. When Bulgaria recognized Macedonia, it believed that in the course of democratization, the country would manage to awaken to and restore the forcefully interrupted during the Communist rule historical continuity and thus, build a realistic view of its future and relations with its neighbours. Alas, for 20 years now, official authorities in Skopje have been constantly signalling that their disposition to reproduction and modification of Macedonian myths overwhelms their will to face reality. This policy has reached its climax during the six years PM Nikola Gruevski has been in power. By means of costly media manipulations, as well as the Skopje 2014 project, the authorities have been trying to "awaken" Macedonian citizens to their ancient background and their direct relation to Alexander the Great of Macedon, thus galvanizing and breathing new life into Yugoslavian Macedonian nationalism. This mythicised perception gives rise to neighbour policies architecture initially to serve Belgrade's interests dating back to the times of former Yugoslavia. In other words, through provocations targeting its neighbours and constant re-mooting of the issue of the rights of "Macedonians" in neighbouring countries, Macedonia is kept in check and within Belgrade's orbit. Evidently, it is this mythicised image of Macedonia that Gruevski wants to impose on neighbours and that, in case of an eventual EU accession, will receive international recognition. In the name of this policy the authorities in Skopje resort to gross falsification of the Bulgarian history, build across Skopje monuments to prominent Bulgarian historical figures, including Bulgaria's Tsar Samuel, representing them as Macedonians, show Bulgarian medieval manuscripts, describing them as Macedonian, in Europe, including Brussels and so on. It was for propaganda purposes again that the government in Skopje provided financial support for shooting the film Third Halftime, explaining it was of "high national interest". It is yet another depiction of Bulgarians as invader brutes putting to use old Yugoslavian cliches about "Fascist Bulgaria", "Bulgarian Fascist Invader", etc.Skopje never gave up brutal oppression and harassment of citizens of Macedonia who openly state their Bulgarian origin, nor sabotaging and aversion to any attempt to organise joint celebrations of historical events with neighbours in line with EU recommendations. This policy came to a head with an invitation to "legal entities and natural persons belonging to Macedonian national minorities on the Balkan Peninsula and among Macedonian diaspora" published by the Macedonian Foreign Ministry for projects aiming to fund "the organisation of Macedonian language courses, publishing of newspapers and other information media in Macedonian language, production of TV and radio broadcasts and opening of cultural centres" mostly in the two Balkan countries that are EU Member States, Bulgaria and Greece.Formally and legally, the Bulgarian "no" to the start of negotiations between Macedonia and the EU is based on one of the requirements voted in the European Parliament concerning the development of good neighbourly relations. The Bulgarian "no" directly targets anti-European policies pursued by Macedonia's government but not the country's citizens, thus internationalising in the best way the underlying problems of the Macedonian society. Although obviously the authorities in Skopje would not admit it, Macedonia would benefit greatly from the establishment of close bilateral relations with Bulgaria. First, Bulgaria will help Macedonia raise the awareness of and restore its historical continuity. Second, this will create an environment to solve the long-standing dispute with Greece over the name of the country, thus discarding the reasons prompting Greek President Karolos Papoulias to say that as long as Skopje persists with its Macedonian nationalism ideology, it will keep facing closed doors to NATO and the EU. Unfreezing relations with Bulgaria will also have a positive impact on relieving interethnic tensions in Macedonia, as well as the preservation of its territory undivided, which is a top priority for Bulgaria, too.And such an outcome would directly serve Macedonian citizens' EU ambitions, as well as the democratization of Macedonia and its inclusion in the European family. The author is a member of the Managing Board of the Bulgarian Cultural Club in Skopje.