There will be no special meeting of the joint commission on historical and educational issues between Macedonia and Bulgaria, which would speed up the process of resolving the misunderstandings about Goce Delchev’s character and work. There are no technical requirements for that, and there is no need for that, Dragi Gjorgiev, head of the Macedonian team in the commission, told The Independent.
Earlier, Bulgaria’s deputy chairman of the committee, Angel Dimitrov, called on Macedonian historians to meet in late August at a place they would choose, and if they wanted, they could also go to a resort in Bulgaria. The call came just a day after Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, after meeting with Prime Minister Zoran Zaev in Skopje, decided to act as a political accelerator for the commission, demanding for more frequent meetings, with a goal to find a compromise for Goce Delchev by October, when the EU reconsiders the decision on a negotiation date for our country.
He was clear that the government of Sofia might veto Macedonia’s EU date, but wished to avoid such a scenario at all costs.
“That issue must be resolved. When they give me the folder as agreed between the committees, then we in Bulgaria will decide what needs to be done. We want to avoid this scenario at all costs,” Borisov told a journalist on his statement that “the North Macedonia president is the first North Macedonia politician to declare that Goce Delchev is Bulgarian.” In the political public, his statements were interpreted as “unacceptable blackmail with Delchev”.
“It is technically unthinkable to have an emergency meeting before the agreed deadline of September 12 and 13, and I see no essential need for such a thing. Some of the members are already using or about to use their summer vacation, while others have professional engagements. Personally, I am on vacation from August 15 and then off to a science conference in Bucharest. Yesterday’s public call I experienced as a call for a duel, to choose a place and time and to face off, which I find counterproductive. It gives the impression that we are in a permanent battle that needs to be completed as soon as possible and that someone wins that battle, not that it is an academic process in which to discuss and leave some things open and time to mature, and some solution to be reached,” says university professor Gorgiev.
His stance on Goce Delchev as well as on other important historical figures on which an agreement for a common tribute was already reached (Grigor Prlicev, brothers Cyril and Methodius, St. Clement and St. Naum, Tsar Samuel) is clear – if national exclusivity and possessivenest of the past are bridged over, historical figures can play a connective, inclusive role.
“In order to find a compromise for Delchev, one should not insist on his identity, but emphasize Delchev’s significance for both peoples. Ultimately it doesn’t really matter what he was with regard to our specific goal and decision. That question will continue to be interpreted by historiography. Our goal now is to bring the narrative closer, which will relax the atmosphere here and there and show the public that nothing terrible is happening. Going into the identity issue for Goce Delchev could put the commission in a deadlock. Priority cannot be set for the issue immediately and now the joint commemoration of Goce Delchev should be resolved, “Gjorgiev said.
Since the establishment of the commission, the political pressure is felt that these issues be resolved as soon as possible. The commission started working on the Goce Delchev issue in March, with the next meeting scheduled in September. The agreement on the joint celebration of several important historical figures was reached after long discussions and open academic discussions and thanks to the willingness of both sides to reach agreement.
“Numerous sources, literature, facts, arguments were considered, then the appropriate theoretical methodology analyzed the political, social, cultural context at the time they acted, their significance for Macedonian and Bulgarian culture, the way they connect Macedonian and Bulgarian people. etc. For the holy brothers Cyril and Methodius they were of great importance for European civilization and culture in general, and for Prlicev its significance in the wider Balkan cultural context given his work in Greek and receiving the prestigious prize in Athens in 1860”, says Gjorgiev.
His view that St. Clement or St. Naum, or the Cyril and Methodius brothers cannot be nationalized, is in fact the formula for how to resolve the disputed issues in a simple and rational way.
“They are Christian enlighteners, spiritual persons whom you cannot give nationality to. They have acted in certain countries, in Byzantium and in the Bulgarian medieval state, but that does not make them neither Bulgarians, nor Greeks, nor Macedonians in a contemporary sense. The goal is to give future generations who will learn from Bulgarian and Macedonian textbooks an idea of the cosmopolitanism of those people, of some of the general values they have left to future generations, and not of adopting them as close national heroes. Discussions about textbooks will go in that direction as well,” Gjorgiev said.
The public fuss with boiling emotions about who Goce Delchev is not simmering down. The primitive hassle, which has apparently begun with a statement by Bulgarian Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva, given after the first meeting of a joint intergovernmental commission, that there is no compromise with the truth because Delchev is a Bulgarian, has awakened ghosts from the past that have essentially always been holding the region back.
The tense rhetoric and the increasingly loud bangs on the table, heard from different places on both sides, that “There is no trading with Goce”, could spoil the historic breakthrough made by both governments, but, as experienced diplomats say, can not cause such a political damage that would result in blocking Macedonia’s Euro-Atlantic prospects. (NK)
Don’t look back, you might stumble and fall
The two countries signed an agreement on good neighborly relations, friendship and co-operation two years ago. It was rated not only as news of the day, but of the decade, given the lax relations and distrust the Skopje-Sofia relationship that was piling up for years. Prime Ministers Boyko Borisov and Zoran Zaev then shouted in one voice: “We made a historic step forward” from the Macedonian capital, stressing that peace, cooperation and good neighborliness are more important than anything else.
“People don’t say ‘Don’t look back, you might stumble and fall’ in vain. So we decided to look ahead. You will see the results in a while. The term shared history is a term that gives common perspectives, not partitions”, Bulgaria’s prime minister (EU presidency chairman) said at the time, turning Bulgaria into one of Macedonia’s biggest lobbyists for EU integration aspirations. The battle for Delchev now evokes slightly different tones.