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News 22 Jan 18

Bulgarian Rightists Accuse Greeks of 'Usurping' Macedonia's Name

Defence Minister Krasimir Karakachanov’s party rejects Greek nationalists' claim to exclusive use of the word 'Macedonia' – adding that Bulgaria has an equal right to it.

Martin Dimitrov
BIRN
Sofia
VMRO-BND members march with posters saying 'Misya-Tracia-Macedonia' and 'VMRO Macedonia is Bulgarian'. Photo: VMRO-BND website

Bulgaria's nationalist VMRO-BND party has joined the dispute between Macedonia and Greece over Macedonia's name, accusing Greece of trying to "usurp" the term Macedonia exclusively.

The party led by Defence Minister Krasimir Karakachanov confirmed its statement published on Sunday on its website was official.

“The position was adopted by the National Council of the party on Sunday. Of course he [Karakachanov] is aware of it,” a spokesperson told BIRN on Monday.

The statement on Sunday, entitled, “Greeks, you are not entirely right about Macedonia”, came after about 90,000 protesters took to the streets of Thessaloniki, in Greece, carrying flags and banners reading: “Macedonia is Greek”.

They denounced moves to reach a compromise with Macedonia over its name that include the latter continuing to use the word "Macedonia", even in compound form, in its name.

VMRO-BND is a part of the United Patriots parliamentary group – alongside Ataka and the National Front for the Salvation of Bulgaria – which is a junior partner in the government in Sofia.

The party said it understands Greek claims that the name Macedonia does not belong to the country ruled from Skopje – but does not see why it should not be used in a compound form.

“We Bulgarians can also claim these names and places, but we don’t because we believe the road ahead is one of camaraderie and magnanimity, not one of holdbacks,” the document says, recalling Bulgaria's historic claim to Macedonia.

“Why would Athens wish to monopolize on this name? Didn’t thousands of people you now call ‘Slavic-speaking Hellenes' die with this name in their mouths?” the party asks, accusing Greece of wanting to completely usurp the name “Macedonia”, which it said “cannot be tolerated”.

“We Bulgarians, naturally stand by our Macedonian brothers in the 'name' dispute. And want an end to it. But without resorting to violence. Nobody can completely take away from the Macedonian people the right to use the name that our common ancestors used. Look for a compromise, but don’t twist arms,” warned the Bulgarian nationalists.

The Defence Ministry spokesperson told BIRN that a distinction must be made between party positions and those of the Minister, however, and referred back to the VMRO-BND office.

BIRN also asked the cabinet of Prime Minister Boyko Borissov if the government endorsed the position of its junior coalition partner, and if such statements would help settle the long dispute between Greece and Macedonia.

The cabinet information office responded that Borissov had "pointed out on numerous occasions that solving the Athens and Skopje name dispute is not only a prerequisite for the euroatlantic path of the Republic of Macedonia, but also for the development of a new type of relations within the entire Balkan region.

"Even such long-standing disputes can be resolved if there is good-will in the negotiations," the cabinet added.

It noted that PM Borissov believes that both Athens and Skopje have this will. There was no comment of the VMRO-BND statement.

VMRO-BND claims lineage from the 19th-20th century-era Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization, launched in 1893 in Thessaloniki to prepare for a revolution against Ottoman rule in the Macedonian and Edrine regions of the Ottoman Empire.

The organization was suppressed by the Bulgarian Communist regime but revived as a neo-nationalist party in the 1990s.

The party proclaims to follow an ideology of “contemporary Bulgarian nationalism”, but is known best for its anti-Roma, anti-Muslim and anti-immigration stances.

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