North Macedonia: Zaev says a definitive “no” to discussions on identity and language

North Macedonia: Zaev says a definitive “no” to discussions on identity and language

Rama: Identity issues should not be part of daily politics

The government has not negotiated and will not negotiate on the Macedonian identity and the Macedonian language, said the Prime Minister of North Macedonia Zoran Zaev. The universal right of all nations is to have their own language and their own national identity, Zaev added. His Albanian counterpart, Edi Rama, believes that identity issues should not be part of everyday politics and that Albania is ready to “wait for North Macedonia” so that the two countries do not split up in the integration process.

As for the position of the ruling coalition partner Ljupco Georgievski, which provoked a storm of reactions, Zaev informed that he had spoken with Georgievski, where he confirmed that it was his personal position. As he said, he explained that it could not be his position, either the position of the government or the coalition because the government’s views on this issue are clear.

“There is nowhere in the world, not even in our country, to sleep on December 31, 1943 as Bulgarians and wake up on January 1, 1944 as Macedonians. It is nowhere. That is why Europe does not enter into discussions about history. We have signed an Agreement with Bulgaria, in which we accept a common history between the two nations and the two countries. And this is really a serious step in the spirit of friendship”, Zaev said.

According to the Prime Minister of North Macedonia, although Bulgaria recognizes the Macedonians and the Macedonian language as a reality, it wants to talk about the past. This, he said, is an issue for historians, expressing confident that they (historians) will find ways to complete the part of the past that Bulgaria wants to create.

He also expressed hope that there would be a shift in finding a solution after the election in Bulgaria.

“I believe that a solution will be found; I would not comment in depth, because now there are elections in Bulgaria. Once the Bulgarian government is formed, we will continue to enter into even more substantive negotiations, because we want to find a solution as soon as possible and to continue our European course and hold the first intergovernmental conference”, Zaev said.

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama spoke about the possibility of separating Skopje and Tirana now that North Macedonia is being blocked by Bulgaria. Rama stressed his support for North Macedonia and expressed hope that the leaders in Skopje and Sofia “will show wisdom and overcome the conflict”.

“When these concrete steps will be taken, such as the first intergovernmental conference, is not really up to us. We live in different times. These are not the best times for us in the region”, Rama commented when asked about the start of negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania, in the presence of EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell and EU Enlargement Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi.

Edi Rama also pointed out that when he learned that identity issues were raised in the negotiation process for North Macedonia, he was “terrified”.

“This is the worst possible discussion when consensus is needed to get to the next step, because it is complicated, because it is emotional, and we hope that the wise leaders of North Macedonia and Bulgaria, who are wise, will solve it on their own. I hope they do not expect a magic wand from Berlin, London or anywhere, because it will not happen. They have to find a way to agree on their own”, said the Albanian prime minister.

He added that the past should be left to academics, civil society and experts. It has no place in everyday politics, Rama pointed out and expressed the hope that there will be no separation of North Macedonia and Albania at this point in the process, ie the intergovernmental conference.

“The past is a process that can imprison North Macedonia; my God, who knows for how long, but if we have to wait for you and endure, we will wait for you as our neighbors and we will suffer”, Rama stressed.

The regular Stabilization and Association Meeting with North Macedonia, scheduled for the end of February, has been postponed, but according to EU Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi, it has nothing to do with any pressure from Bulgaria.

“The Albanian council was supposed to be held in November, so it was postponed as well; now we are searching for a date. At the moment there is a delay in the meetings due to Covid, there is nothing terrible about it, as we live Covid’s time”, Varhelyi said.

Referring to the possible separation of Skopje and Tirana’s European integration, the EU Enlargement Commissioner said it was a value-based process and that the eligible country would win the first intergovernmental conference.

“The conditions for Albania are met and we will submit a proposal to the Member States to start the first intergovernmental conference as soon as possible”, Varhelyi said.

Bulgarian President Rumen Radev, in a meeting with the heads of the Bulgarian special services, called for timely measures to be taken to adequately protect the rights of Bulgarian citizens outside Bulgaria, who are exposed to attacks, because of their national self-determination alone.

The reason for the meeting, according to a statement from the Presidency, was the letter received by the Bulgarian President’s Cabinet by the “Ivan Mihajlov” Cultural Center in Bitola and other citizens of North Macedonia who identify themselves as local Bulgarians. According to the statement, the frequent incidents of violation of their rights are due only to the fact that they nationally identify themselves as Bulgarians.

According to the announcement, the meeting also discussed the case in Strumnitsa, about the attacks of citizens against those who identify themselves as Bulgarians.

Meanwhile, the Sofia Foreign Ministry announced that the Bulgarian Ambassador to Skopje Angel Angelov and the Special Representative of the Government of the Republic of North Macedonia for Bulgaria Vlado Buckovski discussed the current co-operation between Sofia and Skopje.

During the conversation, more emphasis was placed on relations in the fields of media, education, culture, healthcare and infrastructure.

Particular attention was paid to the readiness of both countries for the construction of the border checkpoint “Klepalo” between the municipalities of Strumjani and Berovo. According to Bulgarian Minister of Regional Development Denika Nikolova, Bulgaria intends to allocate about 9m euros for the construction of the border crossing, which it described as a strategic project for trade and tourism./ibna