A long-simmering historical dispute between two Balkan neighbors is about to enter the corridors of Brussels again as North Macedonia expects an official start to the EU accession negotiation process in December.
An EU candidate country since 2005, North Macedonia hoped that solving the name dispute with Greece would end the historical quarrels with its Balkan neighbors and, after having entered NATO in March, start the country down the long road to full EU membership.
A document titled the “Explanatory Memorandum on the relationship of the Republic of Bulgaria with the Republic of North Macedonia in the context of the EU enlargement and Association and Stabilization Process” caught the attention of the media in North Macedonia last week.
The six-page memorandum, sent to 26 EU capitals from Sofia in August, lays out Bulgaria’s position on several historical issues. Key among them, as Sofia claims: “the ethnic and linguistic engineering that has taken place” in North Macedonia since World War II.
“The accession path of the Republic of North Macedonia provides a valuable opportunity for its leadership to break with the ideological legacy and practices of communist Yugoslavia,” the Bulgarian memorandum stated. “The enlargement process must not legitimize the ethnic and linguistic engineering that has taken place under former authoritarian regimes.”
According to the official Bulgarian view of history, people of Slavic descent who live in North Macedonia are Bulgarians who speak the Bulgarian language but were brainwashed during the Josip Broz Tito’s communist regime in the former Yugoslavia and were artificially given a new “Macedonian” identity and language in the process.