The deadline for renaming two Bulgarian clubs in Macedonia expires tomorrow, according to a new law on associations that condemns the propagation of fascism.
The name change has already been requested by the club “Car Boris Treći” in Ohrid, and not by the club “Ivan Mihailov” in Bitola.
A day before the deadline for changing the name of the Bulgarian clubs in the country, “Ivan (Vančo) Mihailov” and “Czar Boris the Third”, representatives of the Macedonian Bulgarians at a meeting with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bujar Osmani, discussed how to calm tensions between Skopje and Sofia, and how improve cooperation.
But they didn’t talk about Bulgarian clubs, they only mentioned them, said Djordji Trendafilov from the Civil Democratic Union (GDU), who was in the MFA today together with Lyupcha Djordjevski, the president of Bitola’s Bulgarian club “Ivan (Vancho) Mihailov.
“He said that they offered to mediate in calming tensions because it is not possible to bring rational political solutions in an explosive atmosphere.”
Trendafilov said that the Bitola club did not submit a request for a name change and that they will appeal to higher courts and Strasbourg.
But this was not confirmed by the president of the Bulgarian cultural club, Đorđevski, who, when asked by RSE about the meeting, only briefly commented that it took place in a friendly atmosphere.
There was no representative of the club “Car Boris Treći” from Ohrid in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but a few days ago they submitted a request to the Central Registry for a name change and compliance with the new Law on Associations and Foundations.
The president of the club does not respond to calls from the media and for now it is not known what the new name of the club will be.
After the opening of Bulgarian associations and clubs in Macedonia bearing the names of controversial historical figures, the Assembly passed legal amendments condemning the promotion of fascism and Nazism.
The amendments provide that in the future it will not be possible to register organizations with disputed names. Those already formed have been given a three-month deadline to change their names, which expires tomorrow, after which they should be deleted from the Central Register.
The legal changes were proposed by the party VMRO DPMNE, and the loudest was MP Rašela Mizrahi. She is determined that the renaming of clubs does not refer to the rights of minorities in the country, including Bulgarians, but solely to anti-fascism.
“I expect the law to be respected. The deadline for submitting a request for change is until tomorrow, if the Bitola club has not submitted one, there is a deadline of one month for the ministry to make a decision on the termination of the club that has not submitted such a request,” says Mizrahi.
Historical figures and events from the recent past are interpreted differently in both countries, which puts a strain on the relations between the two countries.
Vancho Mihailov, a native of Novi Selo in Štip, was a fascist collaborator in World War II, who claimed that Macedonians were Bulgarians.
Tsar Boris the Third ruled Bulgaria from 1918 to 1943, and during his time in 1941, Bulgaria became an ally of Nazi Germany, which in return received territories, including part of present-day Macedonia.
For almost two years, Bulgaria blocked the start of North Macedonia’s accession negotiations with the EU due to the open ethnic, linguistic and historical differences between the two countries, which led to a cooling of their relations.
However, last summer the two countries reached an agreement, based on the proposal of the then French president of the European Union, according to which Sofia would lift the veto on the opening of Skopje’s accession negotiations with the EU, on the condition that North Macedonia amends its Constitution, with the inclusion of the Bulgarian minority living in to the country.
According to the last population census conducted in 2021 in North Macedonia, Bulgarians make up 0.19 percent of the country’s population, which the official Sofia disputes and believes that the percentage of Bulgarians in North Macedonia is much higher.