Bulgarian Defense Minister Krasimir Karakacanov tried to explain away his shocking statement that he will send a battalion to Macedonia to remove plaques that qualify Bulgaria as an occupying power during the Second World War. In an interview, Karakacanov said that he was simply “making an offer”, if Macedonian authorities are having difficulties getting the job done themselves.

Bulgaria is threatening to block the opening of EU accession talks with Macedonia unless Macedonian authorities and historians agree that a long list of historic figures were Bulgarian. Demands are also being raised to come to a definition of the Macedonian nation and language that would fit Bulgarian points of view. Another demand is that Macedonia stops “unfriendly propaganda” against it, and this includes monuments and plaques to the partisans that fought against Bulgarian forces during the war. Many of these refer to the “Bulgarian fascist occupation”, given that Bulgaria occupied Macedonia while being part of the Axis.

My comment was turned upside down in the Macedonian press. I said that if there is need I will send an engineering battalion to help them remove those monuments that mention the “Bulgarian occupiers”. I hope this battalion will be welcomed like the Bulgarian battalions in 1912, 1918 and 1941 – with flowers, bread and salt, and hymns, Karakacanov said.

The two Prime Ministers Zaev and Borisov are expected to meet in early November to see if there is a way that Bulgaria allows the opening of EU accession talks for Macedonia. Bulgaria already began blocking some programs such as a Frontex border control treaty with Macedonia, and informed the EU that as things stand it can’t allow the opening of accession talks.