Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov refused to say whether he considers the legendary VMRO hero Goce Delcev as a Macedonian hero. The issue of “ownership” of Delcev erupted in the talks between Macedonian and Bulgarian historians, which are held under a provision of the treaty Dimitrov concluded in 2017.

Bulgarian historians demand that their Macedonian colleagues accept that Delcev was a Bulgarian, and Defense Minister Krasimir Karakacanov said that Bulgaria will block Macedonia’s EU and NATO accession if they don’t.

I’m not a historian. We are talking about one of our greatest heroes, who is deeply interwoven in our statehood, who acted when we didn’t have a state of our own. We risk to break down the process in two ways – if we pretend that we are getting closer and pretend to discuss the difficult issues, but also if there are ultimatums and inappropriate pressures coming from the fact that Bulgaria is an EU member state, Dimitrov said during a TV interview.

Dimitrov was in Sofia when news of the breakdown in the talks between the two sets of historians surfaced and he pleaded with Bulgaria not to use ultimatums over the issue, only to be quickly rebuffed by Karakacanov.

The process about Goce is not going smoothly. There are problems in the implementation of this important and difficult treaty. The solution is that we avoid conflicts but find a way that they understand us and we understand them, Dimitrov said.

A number of other historic figures from the medieval period and from the period of national awakening were already discussed, with concessions made by the Macedonian side.