Latest publication by Slovenian IFIMES rekindles tensions between Bulgaria and North Macedonia

Latest publication by Slovenian IFIMES rekindles tensions between Bulgaria and North Macedonia

Five days after a scandal erupted following a publication by the Slovenian IFIMES institute which referred to Bulgaria and Germany as “mafia states interested in Nazism,” late last night the government of North Macedonia issued a statement following the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ call on the Deputy Ambassador to provide explanations.

In its response, the Government of North Macedonia notes that it considers it “inappropriate to summon our Deputy Ambassador to Sofia, Vladimir Krtsevski, for explanations to the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs for views expressed by a third party, in an analysis that is in now way connected to the government and which was prepared by the Institute for Middle East and Balkan studies (IFIMES) in Ljubljana.”

“The Government of North Macedonia confirms that IFIMES was hired as a well-known consulting institute based on the analysis of policies for preventive diplomacy and confidence-building measures at regional and global level, however its contract expired in 2019. For two years now, the institute has been in no way related with the work of the government, nor are there any legally binding obligations with the government and the office of the Prime Minister. Even before 2019, IFIMES never participated in analyses on the relations between North Macedonia and Bulgaria,” reads the announcement of the Government of North Macedonia.

“Therefore, North Macedonia remains committed and open to intensive talks and friendly dialogue, in order to find solutions as soon as possible that will promote the improvement of relations between Skopje and Sofia and build our shared future in the EU through common bases. We are waiting and we will start with friendly manners and relations on both sides, so that sooner rather than later we can conclude with Bulgaria that we have found a solution in which there are no losers, and that we are facing the challenges of the new era together as soon as possible.”

Authorities in Sofia were outraged by the report released by IFIMES, with the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry summoning diplomat Krstevski to explain whether the Skopje government is linked to the campaign carried out by the institute.

According to a report by the BGNES Agency, the announcement by the North Macedonian side refrains condemn even slightly the publications of the institute. The press release constitutes yet another unsuccessful attempt to cover the exact period during which the government in Skopje had a contractual relationship with IFIMES.

However, according to BGNES, on the official website of the Government of North Macedonia it is stated that “IFIMES had a contract with the executive branch in Skopje from 2017 to 2020, for which it received 1,000 euros per month. Meanwhile, three representatives of the institution are advisers to Prime Minister Zoran Zaev.”

According to BGNES, after the scandal erupted, several European publications deleted not only the latest but also the previous IFIMES publications. Two of IFIMES’ honorary presidents described its posts as defamatory to serve Serbia’s state security and President Vucic, with whom IFIMES chief and former Zoran Zaev adviser Zijad Becirovic shares a close relationship.

By order of Deputy Prime Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva, the interim head of the North Macedonian embassy in Sofia was summoned to the Foreign Ministry to explain whether the Skopje government was involved in the slander campaign against Bulgaria carried out by the International Institute for Middle East and Balkan Studies (IFIMES). The Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed its strong concern over the publications, with former or current advisers to the Prime Minister of North Macedonia participating in the management of this institute.

“It is rather evident. We have a black-and-white contract between the government of North Macedonia and this so-called institute in Slovenia. Information about their relationship is public. It can be found on the government’s website in Skopje. It also states the amount for their three-year contract, which is paid by the cabinet of North Macedonia. It also lists the names of three persons working for the institute who were advisers to the prime minister during his previous term,” Ekaterina Zaharieva said last night on the occasion of the publication of IFIMES.

IFIMES wrote in its analysis that the Bulgarian authorities are promoting unreliable data such, as that the Macedonians are of Bulgarian origin and that North Macedonia must make an official statement that the Macedonian language and identity hold Bulgarian roots.

“It is inconceivable that in the 21st century, the state of Bulgaria, a full EU and NATO member, would question the identity and language of the neighboring people of North Macedonia,” the Slovenian Institute commented. /ibna