Diplomatic pirouette of Sofia with the “Macedonian” language in the background

In a recent interview, Bulgaria’s Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva has made a turn of 180 degrees regarding the recognition of the so-called “Macedonian” language.

Zacharieva stated that “there is not a dispute with former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia about the issue of “Macedonian language”, and stressed in particular that “the linguistic formula of the Agreement expected to be signed between the two countries strictly follows the 1999 Joint Declaration”.

Unsurprisingly, this position generated an immediate reaction of academics and historians in Sofia, with the academic Georgi Markov stating that “the 1999 Declaration mentioned by Mrs Zacharieva does not refer to any “Macedonian” language and that the Declaration was signed “in the languages recognised by the Constitution”.

The Director of the National Historical Museum of Sofia and history Professor Mr Bozidar Dimitrov, also opposed to Ms Zacharieva’s statements and stated that “The language is not recognised by the governments but by the linguistic institutes”. Mr Dimitrov had also recently stressed in an interview for FYROM’s Zveta newspaper that the so-called “Macedonian” language originates from the Bulgarian “Bardaric” dialect.

Dual language and mediating role

It is surprising, however, that the statements of the Bulgarian Prime Minister Mr Borisov, do not show a shared opinion on the matter. During the recent visit of FYROM’s Prime Minister Zoran Zaev to Sofia, Mr Borisov avoided mentioning the phrase “Macedonian language”, even though he was asked to, respecting in this way Bulgaria’s known and timeless attitude towards FYROM on the language matter.

Besides, Bulgaria may have been the first to recognise the “Republic of Macedonia” in 1999, but has never recognised the “Macedonian language” or the “Macedonian Nation”, because both are considered elements of its historical “heritage”.

Alternatively, while Sofia states that it wants good relations with Greece, in view of the good neighbourly agreement with FYROM, it does not seem to show a “European solidarity” spirit towards Athens, since it does not hesitate to give assurances to FYROM that it will help its accession to NATO and the EU. “We will give a positive example to the Balkans, but we will also pave the way of “Macedonia” to NATO and the EU”, Mr Borisov said in the presence of his FYROM counterpart Zoran Zaev, revealing in this way Sofia’s ambitions and the role it wishes to play in the Region at this point in time.

As it is known, Greece’s position is that the “nomenclature” issue must be resolved first and then should any procedures for EU and NATO membership begin. Furthermore, NATO’s leadership states that nothing has changed in the decisions of the 2008 Organization’s Summit when Athens’ position was adopted.

However, the Friendship and Co-operation Agreement between Sofia and FYROM is expected to be signed in mid-August, while its luck will most likely depend on the so-called difficult “details”. To be exact it will depend on the linguistic issue, the historical symbols, the common celebrations, the school books, and the cultural heritage. These are all the main issues that usually cause recklessness and national elation on both sides.

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