Dr. Golev: Macedonism brings votes for the elite, but no benefits for Skopje

The Macedonian political elite naively thinks that it will be able to play the victim in Europe in regard to the tango they try to attempt with Bulgaria.

Hristijan Mickoski's anti-Bulgarian rhetoric brings votes but no real benefits for his country.

Belgrade dreams of joining the EU before North Macedonia, and Albanian politicians in Skopje remain loyal to Macedonism.

This is what Dr. Konstantin Golev, senior assistant professor at the Institute for Historical Studies at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, said in an interview with BGNES.

With him we discussed the genesis of the Macedonian political elite and anti-Bulgarianism in Macedonia, foreign interference in Skopje and the future of the European path for the region.

"The main problem in relations between North Macedonia and Bulgaria is the deep distrust that the Macedonian political elite harbors towards our country. This is projected and inculcated on ordinary citizens. Both main political parties - the Social Democratic Union /SDSM/ and VMRO-DPMNE - use every occasion for this distrust and suspicion, which is bordering on psychosis" said Dr. Golev.

Two factors are important - Macedonian politicians and the Serbian influence. In Macedonia, the traditions of the Yugoslav secret services are still strong, and the entire political elite was bred in Yugoslavia.

"It is shocking that the presidential candidate, and now head of state, of VMRO-DPMNE, which defines itself as a nationalist party, is speaking Serbian with Aleksandar Vucic. Populist nationalism in Macedonia is linked to Serbia", Dr Golev stressed, adding:

"The transition of the Bulgarian regional identity to an independent Macedonian identity is a long process and had its beginnings before the Second World War but blossomed under the umbrella of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. That is why it has this anti-Bulgarian format, essence and nature - this development is not natural."

"A large part of the explanation for the political rhetoric of former Prime Minister Dimitar Kovacevski, former President Stevo Pendarovski, SDSM in general, and their opponents in VMRO-DPMNE, has to do with the fact that society there has been educated in anti-Bulgarian rhetoric. Bulgaria is always disproportionately and very strongly represented in political debates. When Greece blocked Macedonia for decades from NATO and the EU, this wasn’t so hysterically discussed in Macedonia. "The 'special' treatment of Bulgaria was set already with the anti-Bulgarian hysteria in the Yugoslav period, and even in the interwar Serbian period," the historian explained.

He pointed out that the Macedonian political elite distrusts Bulgaria because it is insecure about the identity of its own citizens.

"The formation of the Macedonian nation is not a complete process. This does not mean that all the people there are Bulgarians, because they do not feel that way. There are two groups of people in northern Macedonia that Bulgaria has to work with a lot - one is the active Bulgarians who are fully aware of their origins, and a grayer peripheral group that has a developed Macedonian identity but knows its Bulgarian origins and usually has no anti-Bulgarian feelings. These two groups are a legitimate target of Bulgarian politics", said Konstantin Golev.

He noted that we should not be misled by the rhetoric of the future Prime Minister Hristijan Mickoski, because after elections comes the time of pragmatism, and anti-Bulgarian rhetoric brings votes but does not bring benefits. The big question is whether Mickoski really wants to enter the European Union or, as Vucic wants, to stay on the periphery of the bloc so that Brussels does not interfere in his clientelist system. Investments from the EU aren’t all that attractive for this oligarchic system, but pre-accession funds are interesting because neither Russian nor Chinese influence can duplicate them.

"If the Macedonian political elite is sincere in its desire for EU membership, it will soon have to compromise with the constitutional changes because uncomfortable decisions are taken after elections so that the voter has time to forget them. The Macedonian political elite naively thinks that it will be able to play the victim in Europe in regard to the tango they try to attempt with Bulgaria - one step forward and two steps back, "Gotse Delchev is Bulgarian, but not exactly". However, the negotiating framework is very difficult to change. The EU system will not allow a candidate country to scrap a collective decision", the scholar stressed.

Asked by BGNES on the role of the Albanian factor in our south-western neighbor and does it adhere to the state ideology, Dr Golev replied:

"The Albanian political elite seeks to be loyal to Macedonism in order to be loyal to the Macedonian state, because this is the price of their integration. (The previous foreign minister) Bujar Osmani from the Democratic Union for Integration /DUI/ was quite a shrewd player and tried in every way to circumvent the requirements of the Treaty of Friendship and Good Neighborhood with Bulgaria."

"The European integration of North Macedonia is very important for the Albanians because it will break down the borders between them and Albania. The Macedonian political elite has not properly addressed the problem that will arise. Its focus is on the collapse of the border with Bulgaria and the "terrible dangers" that will enter Macedonia," he added.

It will be a big victory for Bulgarian diplomacy if it manages to separate Albania and North Macedonia on the European path, so that it is clear that Tirana will continue on its way without being hostage to problems that will obviously drag on for a long time, according to Golev.

Asked whether North Macedonia's lagging behind on the European path would leave it in the clutches of Serbian influence, he said:

"Bringing in Serbia and North Macedonia now, at this moment, will not take the two countries out of the clutches of foreign destructive influence, but will bring the foreign influence deeper into the EU. The dream of the Serbian elite is Macedonia not to enter before Serbia at any cost. They can concede defeat to Croatia, but not to Macedonia, which they despise as their deep Yugoslav province. Vucic will not be able to explain to the Serbs that the only reason Serbia is lagging behind on this path is the Kosovo problem."

He recalled North Macedonia President Gordana Siljanovska-Davkova's statement that when she sees Rumen Radev, she will tell him that there are no eternal treaties.

"This is a request to denounce the Treaty of Friendship and Good Neighborhood. And the denunciation of the Prespa treaty with Greece will be the tombstone not only of the European integration but of the future prospects of North Macedonia in general. But VMRO-DPMNE will never dare to take such a public step. Even if they have decided not to join the EU, they will try to simulate cooperation and make the most convenient excuses with Bulgaria. For this reason, they are also unlikely to close down the joint historical committee, which is otherwise very unpleasant for them by its very existence. Its work in recent years has completely stalled, they are obstructing it in every way," said Dr Golev.

Asked by BGNES whether Bulgaria's Western allies understand the danger of bringing an anti-European project into the heart of Europe and whether our country manages to explain its position, the researcher replied:

"The Macedonians themselves explained well enough by not accepting the 'French proposal'. Before the elections in North Macedonia, there was a lot of pressure from Western factors for the constitutional changes to be accepted. Senior US and Brussels representatives went to Skopje. They made it clear what should happen, but it did not happen. Big countries do not like this kind of behavior. In the end, it is about an invitation. If you want to accept it, you have to meet certain conditions."

"The big old empires are aware of the historical roots of our problems, but they don't care. They want to strengthen their southern flank, because Russian and Chinese influence threatens them," Golev continued, adding that in 1913, 1918, 1941 and 1944 the Great powers also knew that the majority in Macedonia were Bulgarians, but decisions were not made fairly, otherwise the Macedonian issue would not exist at all at the moment.

Today, however, Western countries understand that the Macedonian political elite is problematic, Konstantin Golev explained. | BGNES