The United Macedonian Diaspora (UMD) – the leading voice for Macedonians abroad – rebukes the so-called “The Future West Bulgaria” joke made by Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama and calls for his immediate apology to Macedonia and the Macedonian people.
During the South East European Cooperation Process (SEECP) Summit, when introducing the Macedonian Prime Minister Dimitar Kovacevski to the German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, and in front of the Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Rama “jokingly” referred to Kovacevski as “The Future West Bulgaria.”
The incident highlights the need for the EU member states to welcome Macedonia promptly as a further bulwark against the more hostile instincts among its neighbors.
In a time when relations between Macedonia and Bulgaria are at an all-time low with Bulgaria irrationally blocking Macedonia’s EU membership over history and identity issues, Rama’s “joke” is not ironic or sarcastic as he later tweeted but insensitive and highly offensive. The outrage among Macedonian society is valid, and not hysteria as Rama tweeted.
The inexperienced reaction by Kovacevski laughing the comment off, and not reacting immediately shows that the nation is easily manipulated to suit the needs of its neighbors. Having witnessed previous insensitive behavior by Rama, his “joke” seems intentional and mocks his Macedonian counterparty.
In Albania, Bulgarian foreign ministry officials have free reign to intimidate members of the Macedonian minority and apply pressure to declare themselves as Bulgarian in return for EU citizenship through Bulgaria, without any condemnation by Albanian government officials. Rama has no issues with meddling in the internal affairs of other states, given his own “Tirana Platform” initiative of January 2017.
The Bulgarian political elite’s positions are that Macedonia is nothing but a western Bulgarian territory, that Macedonians are nothing but western Bulgarians, and that the Macedonian language is Bulgarian.
In 2009, the then Greek Cultural Minister who later became Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, stated “Time is on our side.” “I believe that Skopje will not survive as a single country and that Greece has nothing to fear from the creation of ‘Great Albania’ and ‘Great Bulgaria’.”
Macedonia’s neighbors have consistently disputed the Macedonian right to self-determination. The ideas of “Greater” are alive. Rama’s “joke” reiterates the need for the Macedonian political elite to grow a backbone.