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The President in Slovenia: The systemic de-Bulgarianization and destruction of the Bulgarian cultural and historical heritage in Republic of North Macedonia is not a bilateral but a European problem

06 October 2021 News

Bulgaria expects legally binding guarantees from the EU for achieving progress in the European integration of the RNM, Rumen Radev stressed before the EU-Western Balkans summit.

The real essence of the problem in the Republic of North Macedonia is the systematic de-Bulgarianization and destruction for years of the Bulgarian cultural and historical heritage in this country. The decades-long "revival process" against Macedonian Bulgarians is not a bilateral issue: human rights and non-discrimination are fundamental principles rooted in the foundations of the European Union. This was stated by President Rumen Radev to journalists in Brdo before the EU-Western Balkans Summit, after holding a series of summits dedicated to the European perspective of our southwestern neighbour.

The first meeting, initiated by European Neighbourhood and Enlargement Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi, was attended by the Prime Minister of Republic of Slovenia, Janez Janša, and the Prime Minister of Republic of North Macedonia, Zoran Zaev, and was attended by European Council President Charles Michel, and the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen.

In the second meeting, Head of State Rumen Radev discussed the European perspective of the Republic of North Macedonia with Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany Angela Merkel, President of the French Republic Emmanuel Macron and Prime Minister of Republic of North Macedonia Zoran Zaev.

Rumen Radev stressed that these summits in Slovenia are being held against the background of numerous signals of persecution and threats of people with Bulgarian identity in the census process in Republic of North Macedonia. They are also happening against the background of the replacement of a Bulgarian monument a few days ago, which shows that not only the living are being persecuted, but also the memory of the dead Bulgarians is being destroyed. More than 120 000 citizens of the Republic of North Macedonia are also citizens of Republic of Bulgaria, based on their explicit declaration of intent and presented objective documents of origin, tens of thousands more are waiting for their Bulgarian passport and our country expects this reality to be taken into account in counting the population of Republic of North Macedonia.

The issue of European integration of our southwestern neighbour is extremely important for our region, for the citizens of Republic of North Macedonia, especially for those who openly express their Bulgarian national identity, for the place and role of Bulgaria in the European Union and for our dignity as a nation, stressed the Head of State. Rumen Radev reminded that in May this year the caretaker government found the relations between Bulgaria and the Republic of North Macedonia at a dead end, despite three years of hugs and promises of unconditional support, despite the "stranded" bilateral agreement on friendship, good neighbourliness and cooperation.

According to the President, Bulgaria's European partners increasingly understand the essence of the problem with Republic of North Macedonia. The suppression of the rights of the citizens of the Republic of North Macedonia, who are also citizens of Republic of Bulgaria, is a challenge for the European Union itself, because they are also European citizens. That is why Rumen Radev called for European solidarity with both them and Bulgaria.

The head of state also pointed out that our country neither vetoed the European integration of the Republic of North Macedonia nor stopped this process, but expected its European partners to respect the basic, fundamental European principles and interests of each member state of the European Union. "We expect this process of debulgarization to stop, to eradicate hate speech, false interpretation and false presentation of Bulgaria in textbooks, museums, monuments, including in the public speaking of representatives of official institutions, as well as in state policy. Then our people and our society will be ready to say 'Yes' to the start of negotiations," Rumen Radev said. The President reiterated the position of our country, which expects legally binding documents from the Republic of North Macedonia for this process, because the Bulgarian people have a very keen and persistent sensitivity to these issues.

The President pointed out that our country is open for dialogue on open issues and is working on the signing of a bilateral protocol with the Republic of North Macedonia, which is expected to be completed and presented in early November. "We need to analyze this protocol and we will sign it if we are satisfied with the results, because we need to compare the results of the protocol with the National Framework Position adopted by the Bulgarian Parliament," Rumen Radev said. The Head of State reiterated that the most important issue in this dialogue is the respect for the rights of Bulgarians in the Republic of North Macedonia. Bulgaria does not expect new promises and declarations from our southwestern neighbour, but legally binding guarantees, including an amendment to the RNM Constitution and the inclusion of Bulgarians among the nation-building peoples listed in its preamble.

"We need tangible and objective results from the ongoing census in the Republic of North Macedonia, without pressuring people in expressing their national identity. We need recognition of the historical truth. And if all this is fulfilled, we need the next guarantee from the EU - the roadmap to be included in the negotiation process and the negotiation framework for RNM," said the President. Rumen Radev added that our country expects to receive guarantees from the European Union within the enlargement process itself.

The President also reminded that every European country has gone through its own catharsis and this process has been especially painful in the countries of the post-Soviet space in Central and Eastern Europe. Bulgarian society is also still healing the wounds inflicted by the totalitarian regime in the campaign to forcibly change the names of Bulgarian Turks. That is why the countries that are applying today to be a member of the European family cannot ignore this process of catharsis. The Republic of North Macedonia cannot omit it either, the president said.

Rumen Radev called on his counterpart from the Republic of North Macedonia, President Stevo Pendarovski, as well as Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, for historic decisions, bold actions, a final break with the ideologies of the totalitarian past, with Macedonianism built on hatred of Bulgaria, which will finally open the prospect of our brothers from the Republic of North Macedonia to full EU membership.

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