Macedonia, Bulgaria Mull Joint Celebrations

Macedonia and Bulgaria may jointly celebrate Europe Day, Bulgarian recognition of Macedonian independence and the establishment of diplomatic ties, Macedonia’s President has suggested to his Bulgarian counterpart.Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov’s suggestion came in the form of a reply to a letter from Bulgaria’s head of state, Rosen Plevneliev, sent on Macedonian Independence Day, September 8.

This suggested strengthening bilateral ties by celebrating certain historic dates together.

The choice of these particular events should set the focus on building a better future rather than on dwelling on the past, on which the two countries often have different views, the office of the Macedonian President said.

“The ideological misuse of history and the replacement of facts, as you define them, are a dangerous tool, which, if misused, especially by politicians for short term gains, could cause great damage,” Ivanov wrote, proposing joint celebrations of more recent events as most fitting.

Previously, Plevenliev wrote that a shared European perspective should encourage both countries to find ways to celebrate historical events and honour historic figures together, adding that he would support “any initiative” from Macedonia.

This would “contribute to a better understanding of history” as well as bringing together the youth of both countries, Plevenliev wrote.

The two countries today have friendly relations, but they remain strained from time to time by different views on history.

Bulgaria was the first country to recognise Macedonia when it proclaimed its independence from Yugoslavia in 1991.

Moreover, Bulgaria, unlike Greece, recognises its neighbour under its constitutional name, the “Republic of Macedonia”.

But Sofia does not recognise the existence of a Macedonian language, separate from Bulgarian, and many Bulgarian historians still maintain that Macedonians are ethnic Bulgarians.

Bulgarian nationalists in the past long claimed Macedonia as part of Bulgaria and only began to abandon the idea following Bulgaria’s defeat during the Balkan Wars of 1912 and 1913. Bulgaria also occupied Macedonia in the Second World War.

In 2010 a draft friendship treaty proposed by Bulgaria caused turbulence when some Macedonians claimed the deal would establish Bulgarian dominance in bilateral relations.

However, in September 2011, another friendship document was signed. The two Balkan countries signed a Euro-Atlantic cooperation memorandum in which they agreed to put past feuds behind them.

In spite of that, in recent years, both countries have accused each other of discrimination against their respective minorities.

Last week, in a meeting with the EU Enlargement Commissioner, Stefan Fuele, Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nikolay Mladenov again said that Macedonian was discriminating against ethnic Bulgarians.

“This assessment does not reflect reality,” Macedonian Foreign Minister Nikola Poposki replied, demanding evidence of such a practice.

“What is concrete is the climate that we have continually created, which is building good neighbourly relations in a substantial way, based on sincerity,” Poposki said.

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