President Stevo Pendarovski vowed not to interfere in Bulgarian internal affairs over the issue of minority rights, referring to Macedonians in Bulgaria as “some kind of minority”. In an interview, he did insist that there are Macedonians living in Greece, though.

Bulgaria is adamant that Macedonia is not allowed to raise the minority issue in the region of Pirin Macedonia, which Bulgaria conquered in the Balkan wars a little over 100 years ago. According to the 2017 Zaev – Borisov treaty, both countries pledged not to raise minority issues, but they reserve the right to protect their citizens living in the other country – a recipe that favors Bulgaria which was systematically issuing passports to Macedonian citizens.  Pendarovski promised that Macedonia is not officially helping minority organizations in Pirin Macedonia.

Their point is that we must give up on attempts to install some kind of a Macedonian minority in Bulgaria. Principle number 1 in international relations, especially since 1945, is non-interference in internal affairs of other countries. With that, we can’t and don’t want to interfere in the internal order of Bulgaria. But if somebody individually declares to be a Macedonian, and turns to the Council of Europe or other organizations to seek his rights, that doesn’t automatically mean that someone in Skopje instructed and paid for it. There are people who declare to be Macedonians in Greece too. With the Prespa treaty we did not renounce them, Pendarovski said.

Under the Prepsa treaty, Macedonia is obliged not to press for the protection of the rights of any persons that are not its citizens”. The Zaev – Borisov treaty has a specific article obligating only Macedonia to declare that its Constitution does not “constitute the basis for interference in the internal affairs of the Republic of Bulgaria, with the purpose of protecting the status and rights of persons, who are not nationals of the Republic of Macedonia”. Meanwhile, both countries “have the right to protect the rights and interests of its respective nationals, on the territory of the other Contracting Party in accordance with international law” – a clause that in reality only favors Bulgaria, which has issued over 100,000 citizenships to Macedonian citizens, eager to travel and work more freely in Western Europe using the Bulgarian EU passport.

Organizations of Macedonians in Bulgaria have turned to the European Court of Human Rights after Bulgaria refused to register them, and recently, left leaning members of the European Parliament have raised this issue against the Borisov Government. Bulgaria considers these suits and the actions of the European Parliament as inspired by the Zaev Government.