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President Pendarovski: Bulgaria declaration could be real political hurdle

If the price we have to pay is to say we are not Macedonians and the language I speak is not Macedonian, then we don't need the EU, President Stevo Pendarovski said in an interview with Alsat-M's 360 Stepeni TV political show, commenting on Bulgaria's statement attached to the conclusions of the EU General Affairs Council.

Skopje, 2 May 2020 (MIA) – If the price we have to pay is to say we are not Macedonians and the language I speak is not Macedonian, then we don’t need the EU, President Stevo Pendarovski said in an interview with Alsat-M’s 360 Stepeni TV political show, commenting on Bulgaria’s statement attached to the conclusions of the EU General Affairs Council.

Commenting on Bulgaria’s demands regarding the Macedonian language, Pendarovski said it was ‘the most rigid’ provision in the declaration of the Bulgarian Parliament.

“I have to be honest, I reread the sentence twice, three times when I read it the first time, I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe that in the 21st century someone could dispute someone else’s language, disputing the way it is being called for decades despite the fact it is codified,” the President said.

Macedonian language, he stressed, is a historic fact and is recognized internationally since 1974.

The UN at a 1977 conference, the President added, verified the language, thus concluding something that has been a pure linguistic and practical fact.

“It’s also a fact that in 1946, a committee led by (linguist and professor) Blazhe Koneski had codified the Macedonian standard language. And these are facts, they are not up for a debate,” Pendarovski stated.

He said the declaration adopted by the Bulgarian Parliament ‘is against several basic principles of our agreement with Bulgaria.’

“The key phrase used in the bilateral agreement is shared history, meaning people and events that are considered key figures and events by both Bulgaria and Macedonia,” Pendarovski noted, adding: “If we rely on this phrase, we will be able to find a joint solution very soon. If we keep on insisting on declaring that everything before 1944 is joint history – read between the lines, Bulgarian history – then we have nothing to negotiate about.”

President Pendarovski said that the Bulgarian declaration, which was endorsed by both the ruling party and the opposition, could prove to be ‘a real political hurdle’ in the adoption of the negotiating framework between the European Commission and North Macedonia, which is expected this June.

He was also asked about the comments by professor Denko Maleski, the President’s aide, who recently in an op-ed on Macedonian-Bulgarian relations wrote that “we have to adjust to the historical truth that in the past we were part of the same nation.” His statements caused public backlash in the country.

“I do not agree with him in this regard, I don’t think he is right. He is only one of the few people who advise me on foreign affairs. I want to have advisors and aides who can tell me when I’m not right, but I have to say I don’t agree with him on this,” President Pendarovski concluded.

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