North Macedonia’s parliament has almost unanimously passed an opposition-proposed resolution amid ongoing talks with neighbouring Bulgaria. The resolution would draw so-called “red lines,” or non-negotiable topics, regarding talks over the Macedonian identity and language.
Filed last month by the main opposition, right-wing VMRO DPMNE party, the resolution this week earned support from 95 out of the 96 MPs present in the 120-seat parliament. Only one MP abstained from the vote.
According to MPs from the VMRO DPMNE party, the resolution was essential to defining North Macedonia’s position on the Macedonian language and identity in ongoing talks with Bulgaria.
“These are our red lines. This is something that no one has or will have a mandate to cross,” VMRO DPMNE MP Timco Mucunski said.
Mucunski said the resolution would bolster North Macedonian diplomacy by providing a “solid tool” with which to defend the Macedonian identity, language and traditions internationally.
The resolution passed by North Macedonia’s parliament asserts that during any talks, there must be “unequivocal respect” for the “autochthony of the Macedonian nation, its historical, linguistic, cultural and religious continuity.” These are to be determined by North Macedonia’s scientific institutions, as well as Slavistic experts and international law.
In November 2020, Bulgaria blocked North Macedonia’s accession talks with the European Union by refusing to approve the EU’s negotiation framework. Bulgaria cited disputes over North Macedonia’s history, language and identity, all of which Sofia insists have Bulgarian roots.
Skopje has long insisted that it will not compromise on issues as sensitive as identity and culture, and that Macedonian is a distinct South Slavic language. It is not, says Skopje, a regional dialect of Bulgarian.
At the end of June 2021, Bulgaria again informed the European Council that it was not willing to allow North Macedonia to commence membership talks. Albania’s EU accession talks are also blocked as a result, as other EU members have insisted the two countries begin accession talks as a single package.
North Macedonia’s latest parliamentary resolution won support from the ruling Social Democrats, the opposition as well as ethnic Albanian parties. Only one amendment was added, which was to cite the constitutional name of the country, North Macedonia, rather than Macedonia as proposed by the opposition.
A joint North Macedonia-Bulgaria historical committee was established to resolve the deadlock in talks between the two countries, but has failed to facilitate any significant diplomatic progress on the issue.