site.btaOpening of Bulgarian Cultural Centre in Bitola Causes Outcry in North Macedonia
Since the Ivan Mihailov Bulgarian cultural centre was opened here on Saturday, people in North Macedonia have been speaking out against it.
The chair on the North Macedonia side of the joint historic commission, Dragi Gjorgiev, commented for Deutsche Welle that naming the centre Ivan Mihailov "is nothing more than a deliberate act of provocation meant to send a message". According to Gjorgiev, the people of North Macedonia are tremendously bitter towards Mihailov due to his ideas that they do not actually exist as a separate nation. Naming a cultural centre in the Republic of North Macedonia after Mihailov, a person who in Gjorgiev's opinion has nothing to do with culture, can only be interpreted as "an arrogant act of provocation" and casts a shadow over any attempt to have "the misunderstandings between Bulgaria and North Macedonia" resolved.
Historian Todor Cepreganov asked on North Macedonia's Televizija 24 TV channel why the centre was opened in the city of Bitola, stating that the Bulgarian influence is not the strongest there. He proceeded to say that Bulgaria at certain points in its past was both a fascist and a national socialist state. "Why did not [Bulgarian Prime Minister] Petkov and his political entourage go to the monument of the 3,000 Jews that got deported from Bitola to bow and apologize? Why did they attend the opening of a cultural centre named after Ivan Mihailov instead?" he asked.
According to former President of the Assembly of the Republic of North Macedonia and New Social Democratic Party leader Tito Petkovski, even the biggest optimists among his people can now see that the Bulgarian state leadership, by supporting fascism in Bitola, is making it impossible for his country to join the EU. He described the current situation between the two countries as an economic war. "Over the last 16 years, ever since we were recognized as a candidate for membership, from the first Bulgarian veto to this day, [the Republic of North] Macedonia has lost over 250 million in European funding that could have been used in our development. We must come to realize that our country is facing a very powerful enemy, and one that is an EU Member State. The message coming from Bitola is clear and unequivocal: admit that you are Bulgarians, and we will allow you to begin accession talks with the EU," Petkovski wrote in a Facebook post.
Saturday's opening of the Ivan Mihailov cultural centre in Bitola was attended by Bulgaria's Vice President Iliana Iotova, Prime Minister Kiril Petkov, Foreign Minister Teodora Genchovska, Bulgarian Ambassador to North Macedonia Angel Angelov, Consul General in Bitola Dimitar Ivanov, former Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva, former Defence Minister Krassimir Karakachanov, former caretaker Culture Minister Velislav Minekov, the 44th National Assembly Chair Tsveta Karayancheva, MPs Elisaveta Belobradova, Andrey Gurov and Dragomir Stoynev, among others.