Author: Prof. Dr. Marjan Gjurovski, Ss. Cyril and Methodius, Faculty of Philosophy – Skopje
When it comes to security and stability between the Republic of North Macedonia and the Republic of Bulgaria, there is really no room for open questions. Security cooperation is developing, both countries are guarantors of the peace and stability of the region, and in this new reality we can see the big picture which clearly shows that without integration we cannot have prosperity either individually or as a region.
The responsibility for resolving all issues has been undertaken by the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of both countries. The start of negotiations with the European Union, as much as it is in the interest of North Macedonia, is equally in the interest of Bulgaria and the region and the European Union, because that step will mean confirmation of the enlargement process, confirmation of the values that the Union represents and a guarantee of the security of the member states of the Union in conditions of war on European soil.
The war in Ukraine seriously warns us that we must not delay the integration of countries that have confirmed that they share European values such as peace, international law and progress, and that unity, unification around these values is the best effective response to the opposite tendencies.
The security-defense cooperation between the Republic of North Macedonia and the Republic of Bulgaria does not suffer due to the strained relations between the two sides.
The cooperation between our two countries as full members of NATO is going on flawlessly. As allied and neighboring states that help each other to strengthen their defense power and security, but also important countries in the southern flank of NATO that are guarantors of the defense power and security of the region.
In 2022, a Bilateral Cooperation Plan was signed between the Republic of North Macedonia and the Republic of Bulgaria, which includes 10 activities, 7 in Bulgaria and 3 in North Macedonia.
The key to successful defense and security cooperation and full interoperability of the two allied armies is joint training, joint exercises, close contacts between soldiers and developing friendships. Thus, the two countries will be sure that they can work together as one in the interest of both countries and in the interest of the security of the region.
North Macedonia in NATO means strengthened security and stability not only for our country, but also for Bulgaria, which has an ally country on its western border, and for the entire region. The answer to this new reality that the continent is living is integration and togetherness, and that’s why I think that every effort must be made by both sides, by both countries, for the process to be unhinged, based on European values and European principles that we all respect and we live. Only an integrated region can guarantee a better life for all our citizens.
Despite everything that is happening, the Macedonian and Bulgarian people are two close and friendly peoples and will remain so. The task of politicians is not to allow enmity between nations and deterioration of relations.
We should remind ourselves more often of the times when we helped each other, of the things we have in common and that bring us together. It is a bit difficult to explain to the people that all the EU members support the beginning of talks on the membership of North Macedonia with the EU, and the Republic of Bulgaria, the country that says it most wants us to be a member of the EU, had vetoed the start of the talks.
The two governments and the two countries must do their best to discuss honestly and pragmatically on all issues that arise. Blockades do not help to improve relations, and therefore I believe that the opening of negotiations and the support of Bulgaria will be a strong impulse and seal of good neighborliness.
The EU is built on the principles of the equality of all its members, on respect for their distinctive history and culture. It is a Union in which diversity and freedom of thought are celebrated. It is a guarantee for resolving all disputes peacefully and for the entry of all member countries into a common space in which economic cooperation is intensified, democracy is developed and mutual understanding is promoted. It even has institutions that resolve unresolved issues in the spirit of European values and principles. And that is why it is important to be in it as a country. For North Macedonia, EU membership is of strategic interest. Our EU membership will not be a threat to anyone’s national interests. On the contrary, we will be together in one bigger family.
In the Republic of North Macedonia, there are Bulgarian military cemeteries in the village of Tsapari in Bitola and in Novo Selo near Strumica, which are maintained, guarded and visited on certain occasions. There are also monuments to Bulgarian soldiers in several places, such as in Kavadarci and other places, which care is being taken to preserve and protect them.
The Republic of North Macedonia does not allow the desecration of anyone’s cemeteries and such occurrences when they occur, or if they occur, they are severely condemned and punished.
The Government of the Republic of North Macedonia always insists on respecting the highest norms and standards in the maintenance of cemeteries and monuments from the First and Second World War on the territory of North Macedonia.
The Constitution of North Macedonia guarantees the rights of all citizens, regardless of ethnicity, religion or any other affiliation. And in the program, the Government advocates that all citizens have equal chances for personal and professional development. It is a value with which the Republic of North Macedonia stands out – the determination to respect the ethnicity, the uniqueness, the culture of every citizen of the state.
North Macedonia, like no other, deserves the full implementation of the negotiations, and the messages we receive from the European representatives confirm that. The country’s membership in the Union is in the interest of the EU itself, and with the latest developments, the dimension of the security significance of the European expansion for the region is quite clear. The war in Ukraine showed in the most tragic way that our European integration is becoming a security issue and only a positive step in this direction will contribute to the general security and safety of the entire European continent.
That is why, together with the Republic of North Macedonia and Bulgaria, they are focused on strengthening the cooperation between the two countries. The position of the Government of the Republic of North Macedonia is that a solution with Bulgaria is only possible if that solution is based on European values, on the principles of preserving the dignity of the citizens of the two countries and mutual respect of the politicians and institutions and the citizens of the two countries.
This analysis is part of the project: „Demystifying the (un) neighborly relations on the path to the EU: The case of North Macedonia and Bulgaria“, through the Canadian Fund for Local Initiatives (CFLI).The content of the publication is the sole responsibility of EUROTINK-Centre for European Strategies and can in no way be considered to reflect the views of the Canadian Embassy in Belgrade and the Canadian Fund for Local Initiatives.