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Hostages of History: North Macedonia, Bulgaria, and the Hazards of EU Accession

Photo: Skopje, the capital of North Macedonia. Photo is in the public domain.

By: Isabelle Avakumovic-Pointon

Despite the groundbreaking Prespa Agreement with Greece in 2018, North Macedonia’s accession to the European Union (EU) is once again on hold. This time, the veto comes from Bulgaria: North Macedonia’s neighbour and, until recently, its staunchest supporter in the EU. The dispute centres on issues of culture, language, and history. This paper argues that the EU should denounce Bulgaria’s actions and apply institutional pressure to stop their veto of North Macedonia’s EU accession on the basis of linguistic and historical disagreements. 

Background and Current Situation

The Republic of Macedonia declared independence from the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1991. It applied to the EU in 2004 and was recognized as a candidate country in 2005, but its accession process was held up for years due to Greece’s objections.[1] In 2018, Greece and North Macedonia signed the Prespa Agreement which resolved longstanding issues between the two countries, including disputes over historical figures (especially Alexander the Great), history education, and North Macedonia’s name.[2] It also ended Greece’s veto on North Macedonia’s EU accession, and in March 2020, the EU began accession negotiations with both North Macedonia and Albania. However, on November 6, 2020, Bulgaria unexpectedly told the EU Commission that it would veto the negotiating framework for North Macedonia, preventing the start of the formal accession process.[3] Bulgaria has maintained this position ever since.

Bulgaria’s actions are particularly surprising since, in 2017, Bulgaria and North Macedonia signed the Treaty of Friendship, Good-Neighborliness, and Cooperation between the Republic of Macedonia and the Republic of Bulgaria (Treaty of Friendship). This agreement was meant to strengthen good bilateral relations between Bulgaria and North Macedonia and to ensure Bulgaria’s support for North Macedonia’s application to the EU and NATO. Ironically, the Bulgarian government is currently using that very document to justify its veto on North Macedonia’s EU accession.[4]

Core Issues

In October 2021, Bulgaria set out six criteria for lifting the veto on North Macedonia’s EU accession talks.[5] As summarized by reporters at Balkan Insight, the key issues are “the short and long form of North Macedonia’s name; preventing hate speech; rehabilitating the victims of communism; greater engagement in the joint History Commission; non-interference in the other’s domestic affairs; and naming Bulgarians in North Macedonia’s Constitution.”[6] This seemingly innocuous list hides a multitude of disagreements over language, ethnicity, and history, stemming from Bulgaria’s apparently unshakeable belief that Macedonian identity is essentially Bulgarian.[7]

Language

The dispute over language stems from Bulgaria’s assertion that the Macedonian language is merely a dialect of Bulgarian. North Macedonia maintains that it is a distinct language.[8] Furthermore, Bulgaria does not want Macedonian to become an official EU language when North Macedonia joins the union and insists that Macedonian not be considered a language during accession negotiations.[9] Since language is widely considered a marker of ethnicity, Bulgaria may believe that acknowledging the existence of a distinct Macedonian language will force them to acknowledge the existence of a distinct Macedonian ethnicity.

Ethnicity

Bulgaria does not recognize a distinct ethnic and cultural Macedonian identity.[10] Meanwhile, North Macedonia asserts that Bulgaria’s refusal to recognize Macedonian identity constitutes a violation of the right to self-determination.[11] Scholar Naum Trajanovski traces Bulgaria’s denial of Macedonian ethnicity back to 1948, when Tito, the leader of Socialist Yugoslavia (which then contained Macedonia) cut ties with Stalin’s USSR, while Bulgaria remained in the Soviet sphere.[12]  Even today Bulgarian politicians blame Communist Yugoslavia for many of their ongoing disputes with North Macedonia.[13] In fact, Bulgaria has claimed that both the idea of a “Macedonian nation” and the existence of a Macedonian language were “artificially” created by Communist Yugoslavia.[14] In September 2020, a politician from the ruling party of Bulgaria stated that “The contemporary Macedonian identity and statehood cannot be built on denying everything that is Bulgarian, in line with the mythologies and lies from [former Yugoslav leader Josip Broz] Tito’s time.”[15] The question of ethnicity also has significant ramifications for minority rights in the region, and both countries have accused the other of violating the rights of their co-ethnics.[16] 

North Macedonia argues that Bulgarian citizens who identify as ethnically Macedonian constitute a national minority that requires protection. Currently, ethnic Macedonians do not appear as an ethnic group in Bulgarian statistics, and some have claimed that their cultural and linguistic rights are being violated by the Bulgarian state.[17] North Macedonia’s promise in the 2017 Treaty of Friendship to not intervene in the internal affairs of Bulgaria was widely viewed as prompted by Bulgarian fears about the Macedonian minority.[18] Meanwhile, the Bulgarian government has claimed that North Macedonian citizens who identify as ethnic Bulgarians have also had their rights violated.[19] Therefore, while debates over the minutiae of language and ethnicity are at times very abstract, they have significant legal implications.[20] Furthermore, the issue of ethnic diasporas is extremely tense in the Balkans, since the Yugoslav Wars in the 1990s were driven by issues of ethnic dispersion, unity, and homogeneity, making this aspect of the dispute particularly worrying.

History 

Most contentious of all is the question of national history and diverging interpretations of historical events. Indeed, both the language and ethnicity disputes rely on competing national histories.  The Preamble to the Treaty of Friendship includes the phrase “Considering their common history which connects both countries and their peoples,” referring the intertwined histories of the two states.[21] More practically, the Treaty of Friendship also established the Joint Multidisciplinary Expert Commission on Historical and Educational Issues (Joint Commission). This body, made up of historians from both Bulgaria and North Macedonia, was meant to “contribute to the objective, based on authentic and evidence-based sources, scientific interpretation of the historical events.”[22] The Commission’s few meetings have not yet led to any publicly-available documents.[23] The Joint Commission’s work is at the heart of the current dispute. In fact, debate has emerged even over the term “common history,” since the North Macedonian historians in the Joint Commission refuse to use the phrase, preferring the term “shared history.”[24] Overall, the Joint Commission has had little success in achieving mutually acceptable compromises on issues including the descriptions of national historical figures in public commemorations and interpretations of the Second World War in school curricula. Instead, the Joint Commission serves as a vehicle for the imposition of Bulgarian nationalist historical narratives on North Macedonia.

To begin with, Bulgaria and North Macedonia disagree on which country can rightfully claim certain historical figures as “their” national heroes, especially Gotse Delchev/Goce Delčev. Delčev was a major anti-Ottoman revolutionary in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, leading the organization that would become the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (IMRO/VMRO).[25] He is considered one of the most important historical figures in Bulgaria’s national history, and the most important in North Macedonia’s.[26] The Joint Commission has not yet found any resolution to the debate over Delčev’s ethnic and national identity.[27]

Bulgaria and North Macedonia also have different interpretation of the Second World War. At the start of the war, the region of Macedonia was mostly part of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. In March 1941, the hitherto neutral Kingdom of Bulgaria joined the Axis powers, and supported their invasion of Yugoslavia a month later. After the Axis victory over Yugoslavia, the region of Macedonia came under Bulgarian control. North Macedonia considers this a Bulgarian occupation, while the Bulgarian government insists it was merely an administrative force.[28] In addition, debate rages about the role of Tsar Boris III in the protection and deportation of Jewish communities in the Eastern Balkans. Macedonians accuse the Bulgarians of atrocities during their occupation and point to Tsar Boris’s deportation of Macedonian Jews to concentration camps in Central Europe. On the other hand, Bulgarians praise Tsar Boris for saving all of Bulgaria’s Jewish citizens from deportation.[29] These opposing interpretations of Bulgaria’s role in the Second World War, especially when represented in history textbooks, are a key part of the current dispute.[30] 

Indeed, the public education systems is one of the state’s most effective tools for enshrining its historical narrative in popular consciousness. Therefore, much of the Bulgarian-North Macedonian dispute focuses on the content of North Macedonian history textbooks. In fact, the Joint Commission was still discussing alterations to North Macedonia’s history textbook mere weeks before Bulgaria’s initial veto.[31] The Joint Commission reportedly achieved some success in redesigning the portrayal of key historical figures and medieval history in these textbooks, but it has not yet reached a solution regarding the description of Goce Delčev.[32] A key point of contention involves North Macedonian textbooks’ description of the Second World War. In December 2021, the new Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov stated that North Macedonia must stop using the phrase “Fascist occupying force” to describe the Bulgarian army occupying the region of Macedonia on behalf of the Axis powers during the Second World War.[33] This is a particularly insidious attempt to force North Macedonia to propagate a whitewashed revisionist version of Bulgarian history.

National history is not only propagated in formal learning environments. Public commemorations, in the form of statues, monuments, names, speeches, and memorial days, are an important means of disseminating the state’s national historical narrative. In fact, Article 8(3) of the Treaty of Friendship states that “The two Contracting Parties will organize by mutual agreement joint celebrations of common historical events and personalities aimed at strengthening the good-neighbourly relations in the spirit of the European values.”[34] However, in practice, commemorations have become much more contentious in recent years. Although in 2018 the Bulgarian Prime Minister attended an official ceremony in Skopje commemorating the thousands of Macedonian Jews murdered during the Holocaust, he did not acknowledge or apologize for Bulgaria’s role in their deportation.[35] Then, when North Macedonia observed its annual “Day of the People’s Uprising in Macedonia in 1941” in October 2020, one Bulgarian politician called it an “anti-Bulgarian provocation.”[36] 

Significance for the EU

There are complex political, cultural, and economic factors at play in this conflict, which should be taken into account when making policy recommendations. In particular, the EU should consider how this dispute harms the EU’s reputation as a pluralistic organization, damages EU credibility in the Western Balkans, and sets a worrying precedent for future enlargement. 

To begin with, this dispute is harming the EU’s reputation as a union that values cultural diversity. In July 2021, the Deputy Prime Minister of North Macedonia, Nikola Dimitrov, said “frankly, if my mother tongue, the Macedonian language, is the reason we can’t move closer to the EU, so be it. Then the EU is not really what we thought it was – a community of values.” Indeed, many observers believe that the EU’s failure to criticize Bulgaria contradicts Article Two of the Treaty on European Union (TEU), which calls for “a society in which pluralism, non-discrimination […] prevail.”[38]

Furthermore, the ongoing dispute undermines the credibility of EU accession promises in the Western Balkans. Indeed, Bulgaria’s veto on North Macedonian accession is functionally a veto on Albania’s as well, since the two countries are in a joint integration process.[39] Facing more delays, candidate countries’ faith in EU accession is dwindling. A related concern is that other actors, like China and Russia, who already have significant cultural and economic influence in the region, might take advantage of the Western Balkans’s disillusionment with the EU.[40]

Finally, if the EU continues to permit Bulgaria’s policy, it risks setting a dangerous precedent wherein member countries are allowed force other countries to accept their national narrative as unquestionable “historical truth.” This is particularly dangerous in the context of the Western Balkans, since many other states in the region have bilateral historical disputes. The debate around collaborationism in Serbia and Croatia during the Second World War is particularly heated.[41] If the EU accession process becomes a legitimate mechanism for enforcing national historical narratives, this could have devastating results for the peace and stability of the Western Balkans.

Decision Considerations

Both countries have seen recent political upsets that are liable to affect rhetoric and policies. In December 2021, North Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev resigned, following his party’s heavy defeat in local elections by the right-wing VMPRO-DPMNE.[42] Meanwhile, Bulgaria held a parliamentary election in April 2021, in which Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov lost power. The country would have two more elections before the newly-formed centrist party “We Continue the Change” successfully concluded negotiations to form a ruling coalition without Borisov in December 2021.[43] Bulgarian President Rumen Radev, whose role is largely ceremonial, was re-elected for another term in November 2021.[44] In December 2021, Prime Minister Petkov announced that he would take a softer approach to North Macedonia’s accession,[45] but in January, Radev re-iterated Bulgaria’s hardline stance.[46] Altogether, the unsettled nature of politics in both countries makes negotiating and implementing a lasting solution much more difficult.

Politicians in both countries are also seeking to appeal to resurgent ultranationalist groups. Issues of language, ethnicity, and national history are at the heart of nationalist and populist rhetoric, so it is unsurprising that right-wing politicians have taken hardline positions.[47] 

For instance, President Radev stated in October 2020 that “There is always room for compromises – but they cannot be made with regarding history, identity and the language, or with demands over national minorities.”[48] There is also the threat of violence from far-right groups if governments make compromises or concessions that they are unhappy with. This already happened in 2017, when extreme-right protesters stormed the North Macedonian parliament building to challenge the government’s decision to change its name as part of the Prespa Agreement.[49] 

Prime Minister Boyko Borisov. Photo by European People’s Party – A23A2466, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=105206475

However, it should be noted that public opinion in both countries support nationalist interpretations of history, and distrust of the other side. A North Macedonian survey completed in October 2020 found that only 1% of participants thought Bulgaria was “friendly” to North Macedonia, and less than a quarter thought highly of the 2017 Treaty of Friendship.[50] Meanwhile, in a Bulgarian survey taken that same month, over 80% of respondents supported their government’s policy towards North Macedonia.[51] Thus, these national historical narratives, and the government policies defending them, seem to be genuinely popular with citizens. These widespread attitudes will make EU attempts at resolution more difficult.

Finally, it should be emphasized that ethnic Bulgarians and Macedonians are not the only minorities in these two states.[52] North Macedonia also has a significant Albanian minority which makes up approximately 25% of the population.[53] Both countries have small but influential Turkish minorities, and significant Roma populations, although there are no reliable statistics on the latter.[54] The increasingly nationalistic rhetoric flowing from the North Macedonian-Bulgarian dispute will likely negatively affect disenfranchised minorities in both countries. 

Recommendations

While at first glance this dispute seems like a bilateral matter between Bulgaria and North Macedonia, it involves and affects the entire EU, as well as the other candidate and potential candidate states in the Western Balkans. Bulgaria is using its immense power as a full EU member to force an aspiring EU member to change domestic policies. While some observers, including a former EU representative to North Macedonia, have suggested that the EU bring in a third-party mediator,[55] this is a problem that is likely to reappear as enlargement in the Western Balkans continues, and the EU should focus on internal mechanisms for solving this kind of dispute. 

To begin with, the EU should specifically condemn Bulgaria’s actions in this affair. 

In March 2021, the EU’s Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement Oliver Varhelji stated vaguely that “It is important that mutually acceptable solutions are found to pending bilateral issues between North Macedonia and Bulgaria.”[56] This refusal to assign responsibility, let alone blame, to Bulgaria is glaringly obvious, and Varhelhji has been widely criticized within the EU for his approach to the Bulgaria-North Macedonia dispute.[57]

Secondly, the EU should make it very clear that Bulgaria’s veto does not form a precedent, and that bilateral disputes should not be brought up in the EU accession process.  Although the EU might have low credibility on this topic, especially since the North Macedonia-Greece dispute held up accession for many years, the EU should still attempt to correct course.

Thirdly, the EU should pressure Bulgaria to lift its veto on North Macedonian accession and cease its attempts to dictate North Macedonian history. EU member states and institutions should start by publicly denouncing Bulgaria’s position on North Macedonia’s accession. If informal methods are unsuccessful, the EU Council could technically also revoke Bulgaria’s voting rights, as per Article 7 of the Treaty on European Union. Article 7 only permits this suspension in the case of “serious and persistent breach by a Member State of the values referred to in Article 2 [of the TEU].”[59] Those values listed in Article 2 include “respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities.”[60] A case could certainly be made that Bulgaria’s actions contradict several of these core values, especially “respect for human dignity” and “the rights of persons belonging to minorities.” However, the Council is unlikely to achieve the unanimity required to revoke Bulgaria’s voting right due to opposition from Hungary and Poland.

Finally, the EU should investigate the Joint Commission for Historical and Educational Issues. Since the Joint Commission has not published any documents, it is difficult to discern what has been discussed. It should also strongly encourage the Joint Commission to consult with experts who are from outside the region and could therefore provide a more detached perspective.


Footnotes:

  1.  Mose Apelblat, “Time for EU to mediate in identity dispute between Bulgaria and North Macedonia,” Brussels Times, October, 17, 2021. https://www.brusselstimes.com/opinion/189596/time-for-eu-to-mediate-in-identity-dispute-between-bulgaria-and-north-macedonia
  2.  Katerina Topalova, “North Macedonia, Greece Rewriting History After Prespa,” Balkan Insight, June 17, 2020, https://balkaninsight.com/2020/06/17/north-macedonia-greece-rewriting-history-after-prespa/
  3. Radio Free Europe/RL’s Bulgarian Service, Bulgaria Dispute Threatens to Delay North Macedonia’s EU Path,” RFE/RL, November 6, 2020, https://www.rferl.org/a/bulgaria-dispute-threatens-to-delay-north-macedonia-s-eu-path/30934358.html.
  4.  Tsvetelia Tsolova, “Bulgaria Blocks EU Accession Talks with North Macedonia,”  Reuters. November 17, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-bulgaria-north-macedonia-eu-idUSKBN27X245.
  5.  Sinisa Jakov Marusic, “BIRN Factcheck: Can North Macedonia Meet Bulgaria’s Six Demands for Breakthrough?” Balkan Insight, October 19, 2021, https://balkaninsight.com/2021/10/19/birn-fact-check-can-north-macedonia-meet-bulgarias-six-demands-for-breakthrough/.
  6.  Marusic, “BIRN Factcheck.” 
  7.  Radio Free Europe/RL’s Bulgarian Service, Bulgaria Dispute Threatens to Delay North Macedonia’s EU Path.” 
  8.  Radio Free Europe/RL’s Bulgarian Service, “Bulgaria Dispute Threatens to Delay North Macedonia’s EU Path.” 
  9.  Florian Bieber, “How Bulgarian Bullying Against North Macedonia Threatens EU Enlargement Again,” European Western Balkans, November 3, 2020, https://europeanwesternbalkans.com/2020/11/03/how-bulgarian-bullying-against-north-macedonia-threatens-eu-enlargement-again/.
  10. Bulgaria Sends a Memorandum on ‘State-Sponsored Anti-Bulgarian Ideology’ in North Macedonia,” European Western Balkans. September 22, 2020, https://europeanwesternbalkans.com/2020/09/22/bulgaria-sends-a-memorandum-on-north-macedonian-eu-accession-on-their-state-sponsored-anti-bulgarian-ideology/.
  11.  Radosveta Vassileva, “What Lurks Behind Bulgaria’s ‘Veto’ on North Macedonia’s Accession Talks?” New Eastern Europe, November 30, 2020, https://neweasterneurope.eu/2020/11/30/what-lurks-behind-bulgarias-veto-on-north-macedonias-accession-talks-%EF%BB%BF/.
  12.  Naum Trajanovski, “Bulgarian-North Macedonia’s History-dispute: Whose “Shared History” in the Name of Which “European values”?” Heinrich Böll Stiftung Sarajevo, November 16, 2020, https://ba.boell.org/en/2020/11/16/bulgarian-north-macedonias-history-dispute-whose-shared-history-name-which-european
  13.  Naum Trajanovski, “Bulgarian-North Macedonia’s History-dispute.”
  14.  Florian Bieber, “How Bulgarian Bullying Against North Macedonia Threatens EU Enlargement Again,” ; Sinisa Jakov Marusic, “Bulgaria, North Macedonia Fail to Move History Dispute Forward,” Balkan Insight. October 16, 2020,https://balkaninsight.com/2020/10/16/bulgaria-north-macedonia-fail-to-move-history-dispute-forward/.
  15.  Sinisa Jakov Marusic, “Bulgaria Repeats Threat to Block North Macedonia Over History Feud,” Balkan Insight, September 14, 2020, https://balkaninsight.com/2020/09/14/bulgaria-repeats-threat-to-block-north-macedonia-over-history-feud/.
  16.  Sinisa Jakov Marusic, “Macedonia, Bulgaria Set to Sign Historic Friendship Treaty,” Balkan Insight, July 31, 2017, https://balkaninsight.com/2017/07/31/macedonia-bulgaria-set-to-sign-historic-friendship-treaty-07-28-2017/.
  17.  Mose Apelblat, “Time for EU to mediate in identity dispute between Bulgaria and North Macedonia,” Brussels Times, October 17, 2021, https://www.brusselstimes.com/opinion/189596/time-for-eu-to-mediate-in-identity-dispute-between-bulgaria-and-north-macedonia.
  18.  Article 11.5. Treaty of Friendship, Good-neighbourliness and Cooperation Between the Republic of Bulgaria and the Republic of Macedonia, Skopje, Macedonia, 1 August 2017, https://treaties.un.org/doc/Publication/UNTS/No%20Volume/55013/Part/I-55013-08000002804f5d3c.pdf
  19. Jane Bojadzievski, “North Macedonia, Albania Face New Obstacles on Path to EU,” VOA News, August 12, 2021, https://www.voanews.com/a/europe_north-macedonia-albania-face-new-obstacles-path-eu/6209496.html.
  20.  Tawhida Ahmed, “The EU’s Relationship with Minority Rights,” in Cultural Governance and the European Union: Protecting and Promoting Cultural Diversity in Europe, ed. Evangelia Psychogiopoulou (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015):177-191.
  21.  Preamble, Treaty of Friendship, Good-neighbourliness and Cooperation Between the Republic of Bulgaria and the Republic of Macedonia, Skopje, Macedonia, 1 August 2017, https://treaties.un.org/doc/Publication/UNTS/No%20Volume/55013/Part/I-55013-08000002804f5d3c.pdf
  22.  Article 8(2). Treaty of Friendship, Good-neighbourliness and Cooperation Between the Republic of Bulgaria and the Republic of Macedonia, Skopje, Macedonia. 1 August 2017, https://treaties.un.org/doc/Publication/UNTS/No%20Volume/55013/Part/I-55013-08000002804f5d3c.pdf
  23.  Mose Apelblat, “Time for EU to mediate in identity dispute between Bulgaria and North Macedonia.” ; Naum Trajanovski, “Bulgarian-North Macedonia’s History-dispute: Whose “Shared History” in the Name of Which “European values”?.” 
  24.  Naum Trajanovski, “Bulgarian-North Macedonia’s History-dispute: Whose “Shared History” in the Name of Which “European values”?.” 
  25.  Svetoslav Todorov and Sinisa Jakov Marusic. “Shared Hero’s Legacy Fails to Unite North Macedonia, Bulgaria,” Balkan Insight, May 12, 2020, https://balkaninsight.com/2020/05/12/shared-heros-legacy-fails-to-unite-north-macedonia-bulgaria/
  26.  Todorov and Marusic. “Shared Hero’s Legacy.”
  27.  Todorov and Marusic. “Shared Hero’s Legacy.”
  28.  Sinisa Jakov Marusic, “BIRN Factcheck: Can North Macedonia Meet Bulgaria’s Six Demands for Breakthrough?.” 
  29.  Radosveta Vassileva, “What Lurks Behind Bulgaria’s ‘Veto’ on North Macedonia’s Accession Talks?,” New Eastern Europe, November 30, 2020, https://neweasterneurope.eu/2020/11/30/what-lurks-behind-bulgarias-veto-on-north-macedonias-accession-talks-%EF%BB%BF/.
  30. Marton Dunai, “New Bulgarian PM Pledges U-turn on North Macedonia’s EU Ambitions,” Financial Times, December 14, 2021, https://www.ft.com/content/0c724214-0342-47ff-98a6-1a07086d29c6.
  31.  Sinisa Jakov Marusic, “Bulgaria, North Macedonia Fail to Move History Dispute Forward.” 
  32.  Naum Trajanovski, “Bulgarian-North Macedonia’s History-dispute: Whose “Shared History” in the Name of Which “European values”?”; Sinisa Jakov Marusic, “BIRN Factcheck: Can North Macedonia Meet Bulgaria’s Six Demands for Breakthrough?.” 
  33. Sinisa Jakov Marusic, “Bulgaria Again Blocks North Macedonia, Albania, EU Accession Talks,” Balkan Insight, December 15, 2021,https://balkaninsight.com/2021/12/15/bulgaria-again-blocks-north-macedonia-albania-eu-accession-talks/.
  34.  Article 8(3). Treaty of Friendship, Good-neighbourliness and Cooperation Between the Republic of Bulgaria and the Republic of Macedonia, Skopje, Macedonia,  August 1, 2017. https://treaties.un.org/doc/Publication/UNTS/No%20Volume/55013/Part/I-55013-08000002804f5d3c.pdf
  35.  Naum Trajanovski, “Bulgarian-North Macedonia’s History-dispute: Whose “Shared History” in the Name of Which “European values”?”; Martin Dimitrov and Sinisa Jakov Marusic. “Bulgaria PM Attends Macedonian Holocaust Memorial,” Balkan Insight, March 12, 2018, https://balkaninsight.com/2018/03/12/zaev-borissov-commemorate-holocaust-remembrance-day-in-macedonia-03-12-2018/.
  36.  Naum Trajanovski, “Bulgarian-North Macedonia’s History-dispute: Whose “Shared History” in the Name of Which “European values”?.” 
  37.  Aleksandar Brezar, “Could North Macedonia be the Graveyard of the EU’s Ideals?,” Euronews, July 20, 2021, https://www.euronews.com/2021/07/20/could-north-macedonia-be-the-graveyard-of-the-eu-s-ideals.
  38.  Consolidated version of the Treaty on European Union, TITLE I – COMMON PROVISIONS, Article 2, OJ C 202, 7.6.(2016):17, https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX%3A12016M002.
  39.  Jane Bojadzievski, “North Macedonia, Albania Face New Obstacles on Path to EU,” VOA News, August 12, 2021, https://www.voanews.com/a/europe_north-macedonia-albania-face-new-obstacles-path-eu/6209496.html.
  40.  Jane Bojadzievski, “North Macedonia, Albania Face New Obstacles on Path to EU.”
  41.  Sven Milekic, “Croatia’s WWII Revisionism ‘Terrifying’, Says Historian,” Balkan Insight, September 28, 2016, https://balkaninsight.com/2016/09/28/croatia-s-wwii-revisionism-terrifying-says-historian-09-26-2016/.
  42.  Radio Free Europe/RL Balkan Service, “North Macedonia’s PM Zaev Steps Down,” RFE/RL, December 23, 2021, https://www.rferl.org/a/macedonia-zaev-resignation-prime-minister/31622844.html.
  43.  Svetoslav Todorov, “New Bulgarian Alliance Assumes Power, Promising Reforms,” Balkan Insight, December 13, 2021, https://balkaninsight.com/2021/12/13/new-bulgarian-alliance-assumes-power-promising-reforms/.
  44.  Tsvetelia Tsolova, “Bulgarian President Radev Wins Second Term on Anti-corruption Ticket,”  Reuters. November 21, 2021, https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/tired-rampant-graft-bulgarians-vote-presidential-election-2021-11-21/.
  45.  Marton Dunai, “New Bulgarian PM Pledges U-turn on North Macedonia’s EU Ambitions,” Financial Times, December 14, 2021, https://www.ft.com/content/0c724214-0342-47ff-98a6-1a07086d29c6.
  46.  Svetoslav Todorov, “Bulgarian President Reconfirms Hardline Stance on North Macedonia,” Balkan Insight, January 11, 2022, https://balkaninsight.com/2022/01/11/bulgarian-president-reconfirms-hardline-stance-on-north-macedonia/.
  47.  For more information on the rise of nationalism in North Macedonia, see: Bojan Stojkovski, “North Macedonia Urged to Address Far Right Threat,” Balkan Insight, December 22, 2021, https://balkaninsight.com/2021/12/22/north-macedonia-urged-to-address-far-right-threat/; For more information on the rise of nationalism in Bulgaria, see: Svetoslav Todorov, “Risks of ‘Revival’: The Bulgarian Far-Right’s Latest Incarnation,” Balkan Insight, January 26, 2022, https://balkaninsight.com/2022/01/26/risks-of-revival-the-bulgarian-far-rights-latest-incarnation/.
  48.  Sinisa Jakov Marusic, “Bulgaria, North Macedonia Fail to Move History Dispute Forward,”
  49.  Bojan Stojkovski, “North Macedonia Urged to Address Far Right Threat.”
  50.  Naum Trajanovski, “Bulgarian-North Macedonia’s History-dispute: Whose “Shared History” in the Name of Which “European values”?.”
  51.  Trajanovski, “Bulgarian-North Macedonia’s History-dispute.”
  52.  Both Bulgaria and North Macedonia conducted censuses in September 2021, with full results expected in March 2022. The most recent censuses with data available are from 2002 in North Macedonia, and 2011 in Bulgaria, see: Sinisa Jakov Marusic, “North Macedonia’s Sensitive Census ‘On Track for Success’,” Balkan Insight, September 20, 2021, https://balkaninsight.com/2021/09/20/north-macedonias-sensitive-census-on-track-for-success/; Svetoslav Todorov, “Bulgaria’s Population Shrinks by 11.5 per cent in Decade,” Balkan Insight, January 6, 2022, https://balkaninsight.com/2022/01/06/bulgarias-population-shrinks-by-11-5-per-cent-in-decade/.
  53.  In 2002, there were 509, 083 ethnic Albanians in North Macedonia, see: Republic of Macedonia State Statistical Office, Census of Population, Households and Dwellings in the Republic of Macedonia, 2002, Final Data, Book XIII: Total Population, Households and Dwellings According to the Territorial Organization of the Republic of Macedonia, 2004 (Skopje: The State Statistical Office, 2005): 34. https://www.stat.gov.mk/Publikacii/knigaXIII.pdf.
  54.  In 2002, nearly 78,000 Turks and over 53,000 Roma lived in North Macedonia (Census of Population, 34). The 2011 Bulgarian census found that 8% of the population was Turkish and 4.9% was Roma, see: Nacionalen Statisticheski Institut Republika Bulgaria, “2011 Population Census – Main Results.” Sofia: National Statistics Institute of Bulgaria, no date, https://www.nsi.bg/census2011/PDOCS2/Census2011final_en.pdf; However, international estimates put Bulgaria’s Roma citizens at closer to 10% of the total population, see: “Roma Inclusion in Bulgaria,” European Commission, https://ec.europa.eu/info/policies/justice-and-fundamental-rights/combatting-discrimination/roma-eu/roma-inclusion-eu-country/roma-inclusion-bulgaria_en.
  55.  Jane Bojadzievski, “North Macedonia, Albania Face New Obstacles on Path to EU.”
  56. “Speech by Commissioner Várhelyi at Tirana Economic Forum.” European Commission, March 12, 2021 https://ec.europa.eu/commission/commissioners/2019-2024/varhelyi/announcements/speech-commissioner-varhelyi-tirana-economic-forum_en.
  57.  Zosia Wanat and Lili Bayer, “Olivér Várhelyi: Europe’s Under-fire Gatekeeper,” Politico, October 5, 2021, https://www.politico.eu/article/oliver-varhelyi-eu-commissioner-enlargement-western-balkans-serbia-human-rights-democracy-rule-of-law/.
  58.  Consolidated version of the Treaty on European Union, TITLE I COMMON PROVISIONS, Article 7 (ex Article 7 TEU). OJ C 326, 26.10.2012, p. 19–20, https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=celex%3A12012M007.
  59.  Treaty on European Union, 19-20.
  60.  Consolidated version of the Treaty on European Union, TITLE I – COMMON PROVISIONS, Article 2. OJ C 202, 7.6.2016, p. 17, https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX%3A12016M002.

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