A pledge from Zoran Zaev to reintroduce teaching of the Serbian language in schools caused an angry reaction in Bulgaria. Zaev made the promise during the celebration of the feast of St. Sava, an Orthodox saint especially honored by the Serbs.

We will go a step further and we will restore the teaching of Serbian language and culture between the 3rd and 6th grade, that were abolished by VMRO-DPMNE in 2007. And we will build a Serbian cultural center in Skopje and a Macedonian center in Belgrade, Zaev said.

Serbian, or at the time Serbo-Croatian, were mandatory in schools in Macedonia under Yugoslavia, but its use was dropped after independence. Ethnic Serbs in Macedonia in the border region have two elementary schools which hold classes in Serbian.

Zaev’s comment angered Andrey Kovatchev, a Bulgarian member of the European Parliament. Bulgaria has been engaged in decades long fight with Serbia to gain influence over Macedonia.

Will Zaev extend a similar message to Bulgarians in Macedonia on the occasion of a Bulgarian holiday? Will he congratulate on the day of Goce Delcev, one of the most celebrated heroes of the Bulgarian people and announce the opening of a Bulgarian cultural center in Skopje and restore the teaching of the Bulgarian language in elementary schools that was abolished by Tito and the Yugoslav Communist Party? Will he remove textbooks where Bulgaria and Bulgarians are represented as Tatars and Mongols, occupiers, fascists and enemies of the Macedonians?, Kovatchev said.

Bulgaria is vetoing Macedonia from opening EU accession talks, and demands that the country declares the Macedonian language and nation as derived from the Bulgarian.