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Macedonia in the Bulgarian and International Press
News Bulletin No3, March, 2000

Relations between the Republic of Bulgaria and the Republic of Macedonia
Contacts at the Governmental Level | The Episode OMO Ilinden – Pirin

In March the relations between our two neighbour countries were determined by two main issues. The one being the necessity to strengthen interstate relations in view of the bilateral agreements and the joint participation in various regional and broader international initiatives. The second issue concerns the efforts of the Macedonian opposition to bring the bilateral relations to a crisis as part of its strategy to come back to power. The development of the second issue provided rich material for the mass media in our country and in the Republic of Macedonia though a deeper view into their publications and broadcasts shows that it is all about already known and discussed things.

Contacts at the Governmental Level
The Sofia Democracia n.p. of 18 March announced that the Macedonian president B. Traikovsky had invited the Bulgarian president Petar Stoyanov to visit the Republic of Macedonia. In his invitation B. Traikovsky emphasized that the permanent development of the bilateral contacts were of mutual interest and of interest for the stability on the Balkans. In fact this would be the second meeting of the two presidents. They met and talked in Zagreb last month during the inauguration of the Croatian president Stipe Mesich. The 168 Hours n.p. of 3-9 March announced some details of the forthcoming meeting of the two presidents. According to the newspaper they were to discuss the joint projects of Skopje and Sofia in the framework of the Stability Pact. Or at least these had been the intentions expressed by the two parts. The meeting has so far been postponed due to the events in the Republic of Macedonia in relation with the prohibition of OMO "Ilinden – Pirin" by the Bulgarian Constitutional Court. Still there are projects that have to be discussed.

The contacts between the governments of the two countries continued at the meeting of the two prime ministers in Budapest. According to the Democracia n.p. of 12 March they have talked tete-a-tete during the meeting of the prime ministers of the neighbour states of Yugoslavia.

The new direction of the relations between Bulgaria and the Republic of Macedonia that the two presidents intended to discuss was expressed in the project of Sofia and Skopje to jointly participate in the reconstruction of the power supply systems in Kosovo. During his visit in the town of Ohrid from the middle of March the Chairman of the Bulgarian Agency of Power Engineering Ivan Shiliashki was authorized to sign an agreement on this matter between the Agency and the ministry of economy of Macedonia. According to the signed agreement the Kosovo problem is to be resolved by the long agreed construction of the 400 kV power-transmission line between Bulgaria and the Republic of Macedonia aimed at the connection of their power supply systems. In this way Bulgarian electric power will transit to Kosovo through Macedonia. The power transmission line is designed with a branch for Albania. Both variants are part of the programme in the framework of the Stability Pact and are to be presented for financing by it.

In the media announcements occurred about talks between the Bulgarian and the Macedonian defense ministries in regard to the purchase or grant of arms and military materials. On this occasion the Democracia n.p., 24 Hours n.p. and other Bulgarian newspapers of 25 and 26 March focused the statements of the Macedonian defense Minister N. Kljussev about the opportunities and the terms of these deals.

The Skopje media of 29 March informed about the Sofia meeting between representatives of the chambers of industry and commerce of the two countries, where the trade exchange for the year 1999 was reported to have amounted to $ 133 million USD and the establishment was made that during the first two months of the year 2000 the trade exchange had grown by 27 percent compared to the same period of last year. All this created the impression of normal though not especially dynamic relations at bilateral basis and of strengthening the cooperation between Bulgaria and the Republic of Macedonia at multilateral basis. However in his interview for the Nova Makedonia n.p. of 20 March the Bulgarian Prime Minister Ivan Kostov shared that the Council of Ministers had discussed the bilateral relations and had noted some measures for their intensification. Back to top

The Episode OMO Ilinden – Pirin
One could not deny that the prohibition of OMO Ilinden – Pirin by the Bulgarian Constitutional Court cast a blight on the relations of the governments of the two countries in March. This was witnessed by the attempt of the Bulgarian Prime Minister Ivan Kostov to keep a distance from the problem stating in his interview for the Nova Makedonia n.p. of 20 March that the case were "rather legal and not a political one and it should not cool the relations between the two states". And once again in his interview for the Dnevnik n.p. of 3 March he stated that he did not even know what exactly the judgment of the Constitutional Court was. On this grounds the Makedonia Denes n.p. of 10 March published a material with the title "The naive Ivan Kostov". There his statement was called a "fairy-tail for little children". Such a shadow could also be seen in the statement of the president B. Traikovsky on this occasion. Immediately after the judgment of the Constitutional Court he declared for the Utrinsky Vestnik n.p. of 2 March that it were not correct for a "head of state to criticize the judgment of the most superior judiciary institution of another state". And because of the delicacy of the matter Traikovsky felt the necessity to express his hope that the Bulgarian part would pay greater attention to the resolution of such or similar matters. A bit later the president stated before the Dnevnik n.p. of 11 March that he were sorry for the judgment of the Bulgarian Constitutional Court regarding the prohibition of OMO Ilinden – Pirin which did not contribute to the good relations of the two states. On the same lines the Prime Minister L. Georgievsky stated for the Utrinsky Vestnik n.p. of 8 March that the judgment on the case of OMO Ilinden – Pirin would not contribute to the good relations between the two countries and that the Macedonian mass media reacted on this not without reason.

In fact no one can deny that the two decisions of the Bulgarian Courts, the jedgment of the Sofia City Court about the admission of OMO Ilinden – Pirin to participation in the local elections and after that the prohibition of OMO Ilinden – Pirin by the Constitutional Court, placed the Macedonian government in a difficult position. And most of all the first judgment about the recognition of the party following the Declaration of the prime ministers of the two countries of February last year through which the Macedonian country canceled its claims on a "Macedonian minority" in Bulgaria.

In the Macedonian government itself and in the circles of VMRO-DPMNE the prohibition of OMO Ilinden – Pirin gave rise to a sharp reaction. The Macedonian Minister of expatriates Martin Trenevsky stated in the Nova Makedonia n.p. and the Utrinsky Vestnik n.p. of 2. and 22 March that the judgment of the Bulgarian Constitutional Court "is scandalous" and that neighbours had to consider the claims of minorities.

Still whereas the reaction of the ruling circles in the Republic of Macedonia on the case "OMO Ilinden – Pirin" was restrained and complying with the good relations between Bulgaria and the Republic of Macedonia, the opposition viewed the case as an opportunity to introduce a fresh note into its anti-Bulgarian campaign as part of its struggle against the government of L. Georgievsky. As a matter of fact anti-Bulgarianism has been the dominating feature of Macedonianism as the state-creating idea of our neighbours for decades. It has been the fundamental of the efforts of the so-called Macedonianists there, ever since the Balkan Wars, to substantiate their efforts to rob Bulgarian history and culture, as well as for their claims for Bulgarian territory and population and for mythologizing the Bulgarian people and the Bulgarian state as the principal hazard for the existence of the federal republic of Macedonia within Yugoslavia and now as an independent Macedonian state. Until the establishment of the government of L. Georgievsky precisely this part of the content of Macedonianism – its anti-Bulgarianism, used to determine the relations between the two countries. A significant part of the Macedonian population educated in this spirit for decades, is as it became evident during the presidential elections campaign yielding to such suggestions about Bulgaria.

On basis of this case with OMO Ilinden – Pirin, which was just an episode of the long anti-Bulgarian campaign, the opposition in the Republic of Macedonia managed to establish mass anti-governmental action involving various circles. Opposition media, which considered the prerequisites and the grounds for the judgment of the Bulgarian Constitutional Court from their own aspect, were also mobilized. Directly were involved such state institutions like the Academy of Sciences and Arts the representatives of which had to "scientifically" substantiate the hazard for the "Macedonian minority" in Bulgaria arising from the prohibition of OMO Ilinden – Pirin. Such organizations like the one of the refugees from Aegean Macedonia, the World Macedonian Congress, the MAAK-Conservative party, cultural associations etc. rose to the rank of organizers of the "nation-wide protest", in order to give the protest public sounding while the driving force hiding behind them is the SDSM. The situation was so incandescent that the Parliament with the votes of some of the deputies from VMRO-DPMNE adopted a declaration against the judgment for the prohibition of OMO Ilinden – Pirin. Part of this action was the attempt to organize a mass protest meeting in front of the Bulgarian Embassy in Skopje and the claim of the leader of MAAK – Conservative, Strasho Angelov, to expel the Bulgarian Ambassador from the Republic of Macedonia. Still the principal accents in the action around OMO Ilinden – Pirin, as it looks like in the press and the electronic media, were two: the unwillingness of the present Macedonian government to protect "its fellow-countrymen" in Bulgaria and the aim of Bulgaria to thereby participate in an eventual division of the Republic of Macedonia.

The second accent is evident from the publications of the Skopje media against the Albanian leader and coalition partner of L. Georgievsky because of his mediation in the relations between the Bulgarian Prime Minister Ivan Kostov and the Kosovo leader Hashim Tachi. For the opposition Xhaferi is dangerous due to the influence of his party among the Albanian population and due to its categorical support for VMRO-DPMNE in ruling the country. The subject of the attack against Xhaferi was his phone call with the Bulgarian Prime Minister Iv. Kostov in which, as he stated himself for the Vecher n.p. of 17 March, the latter had asked him to deliver his letter to Hashim Tachi which letter was dealing with the escalation of tension in Souther Serbia. The position of Xhaferi was that the protests on the occasion of OMO Ilinden – Pirin were an attempt to give rise to a crisis in power. He and his party have declared themselves against this. But exactly this represented the grounds for the growing accusations from the part of the opposition, the activity of which accusations had been examined during the presidential elections campaign, that a joint action for the apportion of Macedonia between the Albanians and Bulgaria were in course. This is what the chief editor of the weekly "Focus" N. Mladenov wrote about, who is one of the leaders of the newly established Democratic Union, lead by Pavle Trayanov. This was also the topic of the publication of the Belgrade newspaper Politica of 23 March. Daily tens and hundreds of publications were written to this topic in March in the press of the Republic of Macedonia. Of course, the reaction of the opposition on this occasion could not last for long. Still the opposition will find other occasions since its principal characteristics which is the anti-Bulgarianism remains. Back to top