In an interview with Sitel TV, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov said that he demands that the joint commission on historic issues between Macedonia and Bulgaria urgently resumes its work.

Borisov was evasive when asked whether Bulgaria will veto Macedonia from opening EU accession talks, but laid clear conditions that must be met. Relations between the two countries are deteriorating after Bulgaria appended a statement to the European Ciuncil decision that Macedonia opens its accession talks, in which it demands that the Macedonian language is referred to as the “official language of the Republic of North Macedonia”, that Macedonia gives up claiming minority rights in Bulgaria and accepts the Bulgarian character of many shared historic figures.

What language are we speaking in right now? Do we need a translator? Do Germany and Austria dispute their language?, Borisov asked the Sitel TV journalist, who replied that Bulgaria is the one who is disputing the existence of a Macedonian language, separate from the Bulgarian.
After claiming several times that Bulgaria does not oppose Macedonia calling its language Macedonian, Borisov said that he is also facing serious pressure at home, from people who believe that he is giving up and selling out Bulgarian national interests and history.

The language issue aside, Borisov zeroed in on the joint commission of historians which was set up as part of the treaty he signed with Zoran Zaev in 2017. Macedonian historians in the commission initially accepted the Bulgarian narrative on a number of historic figures, mainly the medieval Tsar Samuil, but talks broke off when Bulgaria demanded a similar solution about national liberation figrue and VMRO leader Goce Delcev. Borisov stated that Bulgaria demands concessions on the issue. The commission stopped meeting late last year, with its Macedonian members citing the coming early elections as a reason why they can’t keep working on the “joint historic narrative”.

We found a solution about Tsar Samuil, we went to his monument in Bulgaria and in Macedonia together and we need to continue in the same manner. I also understand you, identity is important for a newly founded, or let’s say, young country, but we need to reach agreement. For you it is best if you join EU and NATO, and it is best for us too. The historians need to get together quickly and resolve the problems, name by name, issue by issue. We have cities named after Goce Delcev, and we won’t easily give them up, that is impossible. Let them sit down, come up with a formula like for Tsar Samuil. Your President had a proposal to say that Delcev is a Bulgarian who fought for the liberation of Macedonia, Borisov told Sitel TV.

The interview comes days after Sitel TV was sharply criticized by a political ally of Borisov, Bulgarian member of the European Parliament Andrey Kovatchev, for airing the Third Half movie during a coronavirus TV marathon. The 2012 movie depicts the deportation of the Jews from Macedonia to the German death camps, under Bulgarian occupation. Bulgaria insists that the movie depicts Bulgaria as culprit in the Holocaust, which runs against its official historical narrative.