site.btaBulgarian Foreign Ministry: Feb. 4 Actions of North Macedonia's Authorities Seriously Damaged Process of Restoring Trust
In the period after 1991, Bulgaria has consistently demonstrated a sincere desire to develop good neighbourly relations with the Republic of North Macedonia. After the signing of the Treaty of Friendship, Good Neighbourliness and Cooperation in 2017, the practice of joint commemoration of historical figures from our common history, such as Georgi (Gotse) Nikolov Delchev, was established, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Saturday in a position on the celebrations of the 151st anniversary of the birth of Gotse Delchev published on its official website.
"Unfortunately, the commemoration of the 151st anniversary of his birth did not contribute to building bilateral relations between Sofia and Skopje. We deeply regret that February 4, 2023 will go down in history as the date on which the authorities in North Macedonia, for extremely unconvincing reasons and in violation of the assurances given beforehand, did not allow Bulgarian citizens to pay tribute to the work and life of Delchev. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs defines today's attitude of the government in North Macedonia as humiliating and unacceptable towards the Bulgarian people and the Republic of Bulgaria," the Foreign Ministry said in its position.
The Ministry further says it considers such actions as a failure to meet the commitment to provide unimpeded access to all well-meaning citizens wishing to pay their respects to the memory of the great revolutionary. "This, together with the unwillingness to have the Bulgarian and North Macedonia delegations lay wreaths together, represents a retreat from established good practices and erodes the efforts of the Republic of Bulgaria aimed at strengthening good neighbourliness," the Foreign Ministry said.
"Today the actions of the authorities in North Macedonia have caused serious damage to the process of restoring trust, despite the efforts of Prime Minister Galab Donev, who in a complicated situation initiated a process of de-escalation, and of Deputy Prime Minister for Public Order and Security and Minister of Interior Ivan Demerdzhiev, who visited Skopje for this very purpose on January 30 this year, as well as today's visit," the Ministry believes.
According to the information of the Ministry, at the border checkpoints on the Macedonian side Bulgarian citizens were not allowed to enter the territory of North Macedonia due to technical reasons for hours. "Subsequently, some of the Bulgarian citizens were officially refused entry into the territory of our neighbouring country, while others returned due to the long waiting time. Among those affected by these restrictive measures there are also journalists who have been targeted on the grounds of 'threat to public order, national security, public health or the international relations of the Republic of North Macedonia'," the position adds.
Foreign Minister Nikolay Milkov conferred with the Ambassador of North Macedonia in Sofia, Agneza Rusi-Popovska, with a request for intervention and restoration of freedom of movement. "The same issue has been repeatedly raised in Skopje by Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Ivan Demerdzhiev. Once again we found that the statements and assurances we received from representatives of the authorities in North Macedonia did not correspond to the situation on the ground. This approach in no way contributes to a constructive and well-intentioned dialogue," the Foreign Ministry said.
In connection with the publications in the media about the detained Bulgarian citizens [on the border], the Bulgarian Embassy in Skopje officially addressed the local authorities with a request for additional information, although such information should have been sent promptly by the authorities in North Macedonia. They are expected to be tried in an expedited fast-track procedure, the Ministry also said.
Bulgarian citizens who have received a written refusal to enter the territory of North Macedonia are called upon to provide this information to the Ministry to enable it to take the necessary actions through diplomatic channels and inform its international partners, the position says.
The Ministry further recalls that "the free movement of people is one of the fundamental principles of the EU. Moreover, this is a concrete measure to strengthen good neighbourly relations. If necessary, Bulgaria is ready to provide technical assistance to ensure the smooth functioning of border checkpoints," the Foreign Ministry said.
"At least two sincere partners are needed to establish good neighbourly relations. It is increasingly difficult to discern in the behaviour of the authorities in Skopje a real desire to build the necessary trust, friendship and cooperation", the ministry further commented.
Earlier in Saturday, a Bulgarian led by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior Ivan Demerdzhiev laid wreaths at the grave of Gotse Delchev at the Church of the Ascension in Skopje.