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Brother against Brother

In the recent months, one of the main cases in the office of EU Enlargement Commissioner Oliver Várhelyi has been Bulgaria's stance on the opening of IGC on accession negotiation talks with the Republic of Northern Macedonia....

In the recent months, one of the main cases in the office of EU Enlargement Commissioner Oliver Várhelyi has been Bulgaria's stance on the opening of IGC on accession negotiation talks with the Republic of Northern Macedonia.

The Bulgarian government initially, together with the other member states, approved the opening of accession talks with Albania and Northern Macedonian. Subsequently, Bulgaria sent an Explanatory Memorandum on relations between the Republic of Bulgaria and the Republic of Northern Macedonia in the context of EU enlargement and the Stabilization and Association Process to the other 26 member states with which our government stated his firm position that negotiations with Northern Macedonia could only take place under certain conditions.

In the document sent, Bulgaria states that the proposed draft-negotiating framework with the Republic of Northern Macedonia does not reflect Bulgaria's demands and cannot be supported in this form.

Bulgaria insists that certain conditions be set in the negotiating framework for the start of talks on the accession of the Republic of Northern Macedonia to the EU.

The main conditions outlined by the Bulgarian government indicate the issue of compliance to the treaty for Good Neighbourly Relations with Bulgaria, with the aim to resolve historical disputes. Language also remains a difficult topic and Skopje's claims related to the recognition of a supposed “Macedonian minority” in Bulgaria is yet another problem.

Ultimately, what led to this Memorandum sent by Bulgaria is Skopje’s continued blockade of the Joint Commission on Historical Issues, which has to deal with all disputes regarding historical events and personalities of the two countries. The joint expert commission, consisting of academics from both Bulgaria and North Macedonia was established after the conclusion of the Treaty of Friendship and Good Neighborliness between Bulgaria and North Macedonia. However, it has not held meetings for months, as members of the commission from northern Macedonia repeatedly refuse to participate.

Bulgaria insists that the language spoken in the Republic of Northern Macedonia be called "the official language of the Republic of Northern Macedonia" or "Macedonian according to the Constitution of the Republic of Macedonia" and not Macedonian, because such a language does not exist.

What happened after this?

As a result of Sofia's actions, Skopje decided to play the role of martyr and manipulator.

Sofia was accused of hostility. A large-scale anti-Bulgarian campaign broke out in Northern Macedonia, provocations directed against Bulgaria at all political and social levels, incl. :

- In December, there were open calls on some Facebook groups in the Republic of North Macedonia to compile lists containing the personal details of people with Bulgarian national identity, with the call to “spit on them” and  “humiliate them”;

- Last year North Macedonian chairman of the NM Media Information Agency calls the Bulgarian Foreign Minister and the Greek ex-Foreign Minister 'frigid bitches'

- Earlier this year, during a carnival in Vevchani, we witnessed demonstrative burning of at least two Bulgarian flags in front of hundreds of people.

- On March 13, a Bulgarian from the town of Struga was summoned for questioning in Ohrid. The interrogation conducted by the Agency for National Security also asked questions related to the "send a Bulgarian book to Macedonia" a charitable initiative, which aims to strengthen relations and build bridges between people on both sides of the border. Four more citizens of the Republic of Northern Macedonia were subsequently questioned and intimidated in relation to the initiative.

- When it was discovered that Vasil Garvanliev (North Macedonia’s Eurosong contestant this year) identifies as both Bulgarian and North Macedonian, many public figures, politicians included, called for him to be removed from the contest. He also received more than 400 threats online.

- on March 27, 2021, the Bulgarian citizen Viktor Stoyanov was not allowed to enter the territory of the Republic of Northern Macedonia, as he was transporting (accompanied by all the necessary documentation for this type of donation) 920 books in Bulgarian related to the charity initiative "Send a Bulgarian book to Macedonia" of the Bulgarian Cultural Information Center. The reasons range from paying customs duties and VAT (which are not due) to the need for permission to import these books from the Ministry of Culture of the RSM.

However, all these anti-Bulgarian actions were clearly not enough for the authorities in Skopje and they decided to look for an opportunity at a larger scene.

77а gate

On March 25, 2021, the European Parliament voted on the progress reports of Albania, Kosovo, Northern Macedonia and Serbia on their future accession to the EU.

А day before the vote, the chairman of the Bulgarian delegation to the Group of European Conservatives and Reformists Angel Djambazki forewarned his colleageus regarding a scandalous amendment to the progress report of the Republic of Northern Macedonia submitted by five MEPs, mainly from the Socialist and Greens in the EP.

The amendment reads as follows:

77a.      Condemns the recent provocative statements by Bulgarian government officials about historical matters concerning North Macedonia, which go against the spirit of the Treaty on Good Neighbourly Relations with Bulgaria; calls on the Bulgarian authorities to refrain from such statements, despite the ongoing electoral campaign in Bulgaria; welcomes the mature and balanced response to these provocations by the government officials of North Macedonia;

Dzhmbazki, for his part, sent a letter to his colleagues in the EP urging them to reject the scandalous amendment, in which he further elaborated:

 „…The amendment implies the existence of “provocative statements” made by Bulgarian government officials. I am not aware what you refer to, however Bulgaria has been consistent in its position. The historical truth is not provocative. It cannot be.

There are facts and there is fiction. For example, it is a fact that Gotse Delchev is a self-declared Bulgarian national hero who fought against the Ottoman Empire. It is a fact, that King Samuil of Bulgaria was a Bulgarian medieval monarch. It is a fact that the Cyrillic alphabet was commissioned by the Bulgarian Knyaz Boris and developed in Preslav and Ohrid - the two centres of the medieval Bulgarian state. Those are demonstrable, inarguable and incontestable historical facts backed by an overabundance of historical data coming from authoritative primary and secondary sources. Nothing provocative about them, even if they do challenge certain national mythologies created in Skopje by the dictate of Belgrade and Yugoslavia.

Our history, our identity and our heritage are not up for discussion. There are certain facts that are simply irrevocable and we will not be silenced. We will stand up for our culture and history.

However, I want to turn your attention to yet another problematic part of your amendment. You claim that the government officials of North Macedonia have come up with a “balanced” and “mature” response? Dear colleagues, we must have different definitions of those words. Because the treatment of Bulgarians in North Macedonia is anything but balanced or mature. “

Later that day, the scandalous amendment was rejected by MEPs in the plenary session.

Who’s behind this amendment 77а?

Three of the advisers to Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev are taking part in a campaign aimed at tarnishing Bulgaria's name in the European Union.

Their names are Ziyad Bechirovich, Bakhtiyar Aliaf and Vlado Dimovski. All three have been advisers in Zaev's cabinet since 2017. Apart from being such, however, Becirovic, Bakhtiyar and Dimovski are executive directors of the so-called "International Institute for Middle East and Balkan Studies" IFIMES. This non-governmental organization is based in the Slovenian capital Ljubljana, and in one of its latest publications Bulgaria and Germany are pointed out as countries that crook the European Union.

In a publication from March 24, 2020. IFIMES calls Bulgaria "the ugly face of the EC". The country was attacked through a scandalous historical sketch. Bulgaria was described as a state "artificially created by a treaty between Russia and the Ottoman Empire in 1878." At that time, according to the authors, there were no Bulgarians in the country, only "Bogomils, Macedonians and Turks". As a result, they were subjected to "forced Bulgarianization".  This article bears all the hallmarks of the nostalgic Yugoslav style of the time of Josip Broz Tito, which also guided the political class in Skopje. These same "analysts" claim that the mafia has penetrated the EU institutionally through Bulgaria. It is also stated that representatives of the German Christian Democratic Union are directly involved in crimes. The reason, according to Slovenian "experts", is that both the CDU and its Bavarian coalition partner, the Christian Social Union, "secretly nurture and sympathize with the defeated ideology of World War II."

For the second year in a row, the Slovenian lobbying tool has been publishing vivid anti-Bulgarian analyses and reports. Their main goal is for them to spread and to form a negative attitude towards Bulgaria in the Western press. Of course, all this should not lead to Skopje in any form, as the source of the information is with the pretentious name "International Institute for Middle Eastern and Balkan Studies".

Ziad Becirovic is a Bosnian man who, according to numerous media reports, is involved in racketeering, extortion of Montenegrin politicians, links to radical Islam, and an adviser to former Republika Srpska President Milorad Dodik. Bakhtiyar Aliaf is an Iraqi who graduated with funding from the Yugoslav Communist Party.

According to the official IFIMES website, the institute has a special consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council. In addition, its main goal is to "promote reconciliation, preventive diplomacy, disarmament and confidence-building policies in regional and global conflicts." According to Bulgarian diplomatic sources, IFIMES is funded by Belgrade and some Slovenian municipalities (municipalities commission and subsequently pay for analyses) defending Serbia's foreign policy positions in the Western Balkans. The NGO's board includes Budimir Loncar, a former Yugoslav foreign minister, and Zoran Zivkovic, a former interior minister and prime minister of Serbia. Moreover, according to various sources, Zaev's advisers themselves have held several personal meetings with Serbian Prime Minister Alexander Vucic since 2020.

IFIMES is an institute that publishes mainly anti-Bulgarian, anti-Albanian, anti-Montenegrin and anti-Croatian articles. The materials give a high grade for Alexander Vucic and Zoran Zaev. The main points of "IFIMES" in the articles against Bulgaria are that Zaev is a factor of positive, put at risk because of the nationalist policy of Sofia. One of the anti-Bulgarian publications states reforms that the country has undeservedly become a member of the EU and NATO, thanks to US intervention and pressure on Brussels. And that the Bulgarian political structures never took EU and NATO membership seriously, but immediately undertook a "robbery" of EU funds. One article also mentions that Bulgaria may be asked whether Bulgarians do not have Macedonian roots, as Macedonians are a "biblical people".

As early as 2007, the Croatian daily Slobodna Dalmacija wrote that this institute, i.e. its director, Bakhtiyar Aliaf, does not conduct public opinion polls at all, but only publishes results that are pleasing to someone. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, the institute is described Yugoslav as " nostalgic and Islamic". Today it has become clear that authoritative publications, foolish to use the fabricated information of the Slovenes, have started rubbing publications against Bulgaria.

Coincidentally or not, this is the connection between the institute and two of the MEPs behind the scandalous amendment in the Report on Northern Macedonia in the European Parliament.

Slovenian Tanja Fajon, part of the PES group, received a special award from the same IFIMES institute in 2011. The award was for "her contribution to promoting the EU accession process of the Western Balkan countries".

Even more interesting is the relationship of the Slovenian MEP with the adviser to the Macedonian Prime Minister Vlado Dimovski. The two, in addition to being compatriots, are also members of the same pary - the Social Democratic Party. Perhaps the most curious thing is that Zoran Zaev personally knows his colleague Fajon. In 2018, she, along with two other top colleagues, are visiting Skopje to meet with the Macedonian prime minister and give him unconditional support for the country's EU membership. There is no doubt that Zaev has a rich toolkit for achieving his goals. Another question is how honourable he is.

The situation with Tonino Picula is no less interesting. It is no surprise that he also attended the touching meeting in Skopje, where Tanya Fajon met with Zaev. There is something else that is said to unite the two ardent supporters of Macedonia's EU membership. In May 2017, a list of MEPs who regularly receive funding from the well-known Mr. George Soros appears. This list is the discovery of a group of hackers who hit Open Society servers. Fajon and Picula are also on their list, but whether that is the case is currently a matter of conscience.