The United Macedonian Diaspora (UMD), being the leading organization of Macedonians outside Macedonia, expresses its serious concerns over the incomplete, vague and contradictory content of the Treaty of Friendship, Good-Neighborly Relations, and Cooperation between the Republic of Macedonia and the Republic of Bulgaria. UMD believes that the signing of such an agreement—as well as the possible ratification in the Assembly of the Republic of Macedonia— would negatively affect Macedonia’s national interests. Despite the admirable attempt to promote the long-term relations between Macedonia and Bulgaria, the agreement would only hinder this goal if kept in its current state.
In its totality, the Treaty is far too reminiscent of the damaging Declaration that was signed between both countries in 1999 and essentially represents a continuation of it. With the announcement of the preparation of this agreement, UMD expected and desired it to overcome the mistakes and change the positions of 1999. However, the draft agreement shows the opposite. Instead of negotiating behind closed doors, the agreement should have been published well beforehand, in order to enable a more public transparent debate. In doing so, it makes possible the protection of Macedonian national interests, not just those interests of Bulgaria, which are used as blackmail towards Macedonia’s membership in Euro-Atlantic institutions.
Furthermore, UMD is firmly convinced that this agreement is contradictory in its content. At the end of the introductory text of the agreement, the two sides call for the respect of the principles of the UN charter—a charter in which Article 1 lists fundamental human rights and the right to self-determination. Contrary to Article 1 of the UN Charter are items 4, 5 and 6 of this agreement. These items directly oppose the principles of Article 1, and actively reflect the negative policy of the Republic of Bulgaria towards the Republic of Macedonia.
Article 8 paragraph 2 is more of the same; contradictory and vague. In order to give its consent, the members of the Commission should be appointed and supervised by independent experts and historians. Their role would not lead to a conflict of interest and would assert a necessary, independent element. The President of the Republic of Macedonia, the Government, and the Parliament should be the institutions that uphold Macedonia’s national interests in the process of negotiating international agreements. The interpretation of history and national historiography should be conducted through open debate and through research conducted by the whole scientific community, not the conviction of the few.
Moreover, Article 8 paragraph 3 leaves an open space for interpretation. Historical events and personalities must be listed in order not to allow the “sharing” of the entire Macedonian history. As mentioned above, this agreement is following the path of the already signed 1999 Declaration. In order to close these issues once and for all, without going into historical facts that should be left to historians, it is necessary to specify exactly which part of our history is common. This is the most efficient way to close relevant errors within the currently offered agreement. In addition, it will ensure that Bulgaria does not usurp Macedonian history as its own, but that we hold a separate history as a Macedonian people and state. As part of the European family of peoples and neighboring countries, of course, Bulgaria and Macedonia share a common history, but the interpretation of that “common history” is not the same.
Article 11, paragraph 4 and paragraph 5 are contrary to Article 49 of the Constitution of the Republic of Macedonia, which opens the possibility for this agreement to be later withdrawn before the Constitutional Court and annulled after signing, in effect creating an international scandal. UMD recommends not speeding up the signing of such an unconstitutional and unclear draft agreement. In this article, we would stress that Macedonia is conditioned not to interfere with Bulgaria’s internal affairs, but it is unfair because the same condition is not set for Bulgaria. In this case, Macedonia deviates from the struggle for the cultural and human rights of the Macedonian minority in Bulgaria, which is extremely unacceptable. UMD characterizes the aforementioned components as extremely disparaging towards the Republic of Macedonia. It appears that the Republic of Bulgaria aims to declaratively renounce Macedonia from its Macedonian minority in Bulgaria, and thus with much of its history. In doing so, UMD will use all its resources and network for the protection of the Macedonian minority in Bulgaria and will continue to promote the separate Macedonian history and culture!
For more than two decades, Bulgaria has been loosely issuing Bulgarian citizenship to Macedonians in an effort to support its wrongful and deceiving position that Macedonians are in reality Bulgarian. However, the real reason Macedonians have been acquiring Bulgarian citizenship is economic in nature as an out to the more prosperous no-borders EU.
UMD also disagrees with Article 11, paragraph 6, which diminishes the rights of freedom of speech and freedom of the media. UMD never supports hate speech, but if a credible person or academic publishes facts about the Macedonian side of history, Bulgaria, like Macedonia, has the right to object and the possibility to reject it.
Although the end of the agreement mentions that it will be signed in Macedonian and in Bulgarian, there is no mention of recognizing the Macedonian language, which Bulgaria has disputed for decades. It is of great importance that the issue of Macedonian language is specified within the agreement and officially recognized by the Republic of Bulgaria. This is especially necessary in regards to Macedonia’s eventual membership in the European Union, in which the Macedonian language would be automatically recognized as official; but taking into account the current positions of the Bulgarian members of the European Parliament on Macedonia, the Macedonian people and the Macedonian minority in Bulgaria, the specifics of this agreement can allow Bulgaria to make an objection to the use of our official Macedonian language.
Ultimately, UMD would like Macedonia to be a leader in the Balkans and not have unresolved issues with any of its neighbors, including Bulgaria. UMD calls on the current government and all future governments to learn from the mistakes of previous governments and keep a tighter policy in defending the national interests of the Republic of Macedonia. The President of the Republic of Macedonia, the Government, the Assembly, the MANU, and civil society play a major role in this field and must stand firmly in the protection of Macedonia’s national interests, identity, culture and language.