The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bulgaria issued an official statement on Saturday accusing authorities in North Macedonia of preventing Bulgarians from entering the country to commemorate the 151st anniversary of the birth of Gotse Delchev. Bulgaria accused officials in Skopje of violating the 2017 Treaty of Friendship, Good Neighbourliness and Cooperation between the two countries that, among other things, calls for the joint commemoration of common historical figures, such as Georgi (Gotse) Nikolov Delchev.
The Ministry said that Bulgarian citizens were not allowed to enter the territory of North Macedonia at the border checkpoints on the Macedonian side ‘due to technical reasons’ for hours. “Subsequently, some of the Bulgarian citizens were officially refused entry into the territory of our neighboring country, while others returned due to the long waiting time. Among those affected by these restrictive measures there are also journalists who have been targeted on the grounds of ‘threat to public order, national security, public health or the international relations of the Republic of North Macedonia,’” the statement reads.
“Unfortunately, the commemoration of the 151st anniversary of his birth [of Gotse Delchev] did not contribute to building bilateral relations between Sofia and Skopje,” the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry stated. “We deeply regret that February 4, 2023, will go down in history as the date on which the authorities in North Macedonia, for extremely unconvincing reasons and in violation of the assurances given beforehand, did not allow Bulgarian citizens to pay tribute to the work and life of Delchev. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs defines today’s attitude of the government in North Macedonia as humiliating and unacceptable towards the Bulgarian people and the Republic of Bulgaria.”
The statement continued, “At least two sincere partners are needed to establish good neighborly relations. It is increasingly difficult to discern in the behavior of the authorities in Skopje a real desire to build the necessary trust, friendship, and cooperation.”
Earlier on Saturday, a Bulgarian delegation led by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior Ivan Demerdzhiev laid wreaths at the grave of Gotse Delchev at the Church of the Ascension in Skopje, however, the officials in the Macedonian capital refused to lay wreaths together with their Bulgarian counterparts. The Bulgarian Foreign Ministry declared that “the unwillingness to have the Bulgarian and North Macedonian delegations lay wreaths together, represents a retreat from established good practices and erodes the efforts of the Republic of Bulgaria aimed at strengthening good neighborliness.”
Demerdzhiev went to Blagoevgrad later in the day to lay a wreath at the Delchev Family Memorial in the courtyard of the Presentation of the Theotokos in the Temple Church. Speaking to reporters at that event, Bulgaria’s Deputy Prime Minister stated, “The declarations were that all Bulgarian citizens would be allowed unhindered to pay tribute to Gotse Delchev’s memory, but this did not happen. However, I repeatedly told my colleague [North Macedonia’s Interior Minister Oliver Spasovski] that such an approach does not demonstrate the trust and respect that the two nations owe each other.”