Skopje, 17 September 2020 (MIA) – Sofia’s requirements and positions deeply erode the commitments for goodneighborliness, while unilateral assessments can make the work of the joint Macedonian-Bulgarian commission for historical and educational issues irrelevant. These are the reactions in North Macedonia following the release of Bulgaria’s explanatory memorandum sent to EU members.
Dragi Gjorgiev, chair of the Macedonian team in the expert commission, told Deutsche Welle that Bulgaria’s memo in light of the decision to start EU accession negotiations with North Macedonia, in which the Macedonian language and identity are being denied, is not helpful to the commission’s work.
“Nurturing its own language and culture, along with a feeling of identity and community, cannot represent a threat to the European values and cannot, on any grounds, represent an anti-Bulgarian act or a threat to any nation. In fact, the denial of the right to a language and identity is a threat to the European values and fundamental human rights. Nations are a result of long-standing and multilayered processes, and they are not created by a decision or will of an institution or a person. There is no doubt that the Bulgarian national idea has its place in the development of the Macedonian national idea, which has resulted in joint and shared individuals and events in history (in fact, the history of European nations knows many examples of joint heroes). But this does not take away the right of the Macedonian nation of its own autochtonous path. In fact, all nations are social constructs not biological categories,” notes Gjorgiev.
On the remarks in the Bulgarian memorandum over the interpretation of the “joint history” concept, Gjorgiev says there are several concepts explaining the historical processes and mutual influences among nations and other communities, such as intertwined or shared history, cross-linked history.
He says there are different readings of history but they should not lead to conflict.
“There are many viewpoints and interpretations regarding the understanding of the history of the Macedonia region, especially among countries on the Balkans, so there is not a single ‘historical truth’. But this is not a reason to impose a national historic narrative, one ‘historical truth’, over another. These disputes can be overcome only through understanding of the neighbors’ standpoints, without these standpoints causing divisions and misunderstandings. Therefore, the multi-perspective approach in the learning of the past is a solid foundation to overcome historical-political rows. Different readings of history should not lead to conflict but dialogue that will enable the overcoming of nationalism and abuse from the past, which undermine the foundations of modern Europe,” says Gjorgiev.