If an organization that claims to uphold human rights and democracy forces a country to change its name in order to “join the club”, what do they expect to happen? The oppressors that demanded the name change will be, and have been, emboldened.
Greece's public anti-Macedonian hysteria is already well-documented, but Bulgaria is also following suit by ramping up its campaign against Macedonians, including radio programs, newspaper articles and even movies on national TV all claiming to “prove” that the Macedonian nation, culture and language “do not exist”, that “Macedonian history is Bulgarian” and that there is “no Macedonian minority in Bulgaria”. Hate speech and personal insults are hurled at Macedonians – by Bulgarian politicians, journalists and public officials.
The biggest target of Bulgaria's EU-enabled hate campaign against Macedonians are Macedonian human rights activists. Police officers have, again, begun to visit the homes of activists to interrogate, intimidate and threaten prosecution unless they cease their Macedonian activities. On November 12, 2019, members of the Macedonian Civil Association for the Protection of Fundamental Rights were confronted in their own homes by police and investigators interrogating them about their activities and announcing the initiation of a procedure to rescind the organization's registration – for the sole reason that "Macedonians don't exist".
The European Union and NATO were well aware that their imposed Macedonia name, identity and history change would lead to a huge increase in human rights violations against Macedonians and further actions by Greece and Bulgaria in their public attempts to eradicate any trace of the Macedonian nation. Specifically, on October 10, 2019, Bulgaria's Parliament approved a framework position on Macedonia's European Union accession aspirations, spelling out the conditions that the Republic of Macedonia must obey, including, inter alia:
- That Macedonia must “suspend and refrain from” pursuing a policy of supporting and promoting claims for recognition of the Macedonian minority in Bulgaria;
- Macedonia must declare, with a note to the UN member states, that adherence to the constitutional changes made by the “Republic of North Macedonia” in accordance with the Prespa Agreement will be implemented in parallel with strict adherence to the to the Treaty with the Republic of Bulgaria in its entirety, including in particular the anti-Macedonian “language clause” of the treaty;
- Macedonia must state in a note that the use of the short name provided for in the Prespa Agreement refers only to the political entity of the “Republic of North Macedonia” and not to the geographical region of Macedonia, part of which is within Bulgaria;
- That Macedonia takes measures to remove signs and inscriptions on monuments, memorial plaques and buildings that "openly create ill-will towards Bulgaria" (by referring to Macedonia as being Macedonian), and those containing statements such as “Bulgarian fascist occupier” and;
- That Macedonia reach an agreement with Bulgaria that denies the existence of Macedonians and that key Macedonian historical figures and events "form a quintessential part of Bulgarian history."
These humiliating conditions, which are nothing less than blackmail, given Bulgaria’s membership of the EU and the right to veto which it possesses, represents an unabashed attempt to erase Macedonia and Macedonians from history and the present by coercing Macedonia’s current quisling government to declare that "Macedonians are Bulgarians" and that "Macedonians are a creation of Yugoslavia’s Tito regime". In insisting on these conditions which it claims spring from obligations assumed by Macedonia under the “Treaty on Friendship and Good Neighbourliness” signed between the two countries in August 2017, Bulgaria mirrors and supports the Greek tactic of abusing its right of veto in order to advance the myth that the territory of the Republic of Macedonia is a "historically Bulgarian region inhabited predominantly by ethnic Bulgarians". These demands, at their core, are designed to justify its annexation of Pirin Macedonia in 1913, its decades-long denationalization of its large ethnic Macedonian minority and to perpetuate the nationally unifying dream of the March 1878 Treaty of San Stefano which incorporated the whole of Macedonia in a new Bulgarian state against the wishes of Macedonians.
In insisting that Macedonia and Bulgaria “bring about a climate whereby history ceases to be a cause of division, but rather one creating unity”, Bulgaria is demanding that important Macedonian historical events, such as the birth and death of revolutionary leaders Goce Delchev, Nikola Karev and Jane Sandanski and the Ilinden Rebellion against Ottoman rule in 1903 be marked in a manner which declares that the major actors and protagonists of these events were "purely ethnic Bulgarians". This, of course, assists in historically buttressing the extreme nationalist Bulgarian contention that contemporary Macedonians in Bulgaria, the Republic of Macedonia, Albania, Greece, Serbia and Kosovo are essentially “Bulgarians with an undeveloped or diluted Bulgarian identity”. Moreover, it falsely asserts a claim to the Republic of Macedonia’s territory in the event that the Macedonian state were to collapse at some point in the future. It is also futilely attempting to clean up its image by attempting to erase the atrocities committed by the Bulgarian fascist occupation regime in Macedonia from 1941-44 which included the deportation to Treblinka of Macedonia’s entire Jewish population.
It is therefore quite apparent that like its ally Greece, Bulgaria will continue to use its position as a member of NATO and the EU to continue to blackmail the Republic of Macedonia into accepting its demands in order to advance morally bereft political and foreign policy goals whose realization will paradoxically only contribute to further destabilization in the Balkan region. Given this blatant abuse of the right of veto by Bulgaria, one must of necessity pose the question; does "good neighbourliness", when exercised from a position of power and privilege, mean that any demand, however unreasonable and irrational, may be made in the name of "good neighbourly relations" in order to advance corrupt and pernicious foreign policy goals? Given the open support lent by the EU and NATO to the blackmail being practised by Greece and Bulgaria against the Republic of Macedonia, it is more than clear that the tactics employed by Bulgaria and Greece, have been accepted as a legitimate political tool which “members of the club” can employ against those who seek to enter the “exclusive realm” inhabited by these members. The tolerance, and even encouragement, of such means and methods demeans not only NATO and the EU, but also the principles which they loudly, and falsely, proclaim as their foundation stones.
Macedonian Human Rights Movement International (MHRMI) has been active on human and national rights issues for Macedonians and other oppressed peoples since 1986. For more information: 1-416-850-7125, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.mhrmi.org, twitter.com/mhrmi, facebook.com/mhrmi, #OurNameIsMacedonia