History remains touchy issue between Bulgaria and North Macedonia

Personalities in the shared histories of Bulgaria and the Republic of North Macedonia remain a sensitive issue and some disagreements linger, for all the warming of official relations in recent years.

This much was apparent after the first – and long-delayed – meeting of the joint intergovernmental commission between the two countries on June 10, co-chaired by Bulgarian Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva and her counterpart from North Macedonia, Nikola Dimitrov.

The Republic of North Macedonia’s Foreign Minister, Nikola Dimitrov, and his Bulgarian counterpart, Ekaterina Zaharieva, in Sofia, June 10 2019.

There is a joint commission on history involving specialists from the two countries, meant to come up with consensus positions on issues that long have been matters of contention.

This commission on history has not produced an agreement on Gotse Delchev, a hero in the histories of Bulgaria and of North Macedonia. It is difficult to say much about the 19th century revolutionary without being accused of taking the side of one of the two countries.

Speaking after the joint intergovernmental commission, Bulgaria’s Zaharieva said that her country would continue to support North Macedonia obtaining a date for the start of EU membership talks, but would “strictly observe the implementation” of the bilateral treaty of good neighbourliness – “especially in the history section”.

Zaharieva underlined that in North Macedonia’s association agreement with the EU, there was an obligation for good neighbourly relations “and our condition is for the implementation of the treaty of friendship, good-neighbourliness and co-operation, including the part about history”.

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