Interview with Mr. Stojko Stojkov - Co-President of the Five Member Executive
of the OMO Pirin Political Party in Pirin Macedonia
Courtesy of Liljana Ristova
Editor, Canadian Macedonian News
People's rights are the international norm and a basic principal of the European Union
"To acknowledge that a Macedonian nation, language and such exist is also acknowledging that most of Bulgaria's national ideology is a lie"
1. Mr. Stojkov, you are one of the five member executive committee from the OMO Pirin political party, from the Pirin part of Macedonia. What are the organizing forms, political and national, that the Macedonians in Bulgaria are working with and what are they?
I am a co-president in the executive committee of the party and fight for the rights of the Macedonians in Bulgaria - a United Macedonian foundation - a party for economic integration and growth. The party was established in the year 2000 after the Bulgarian high court revoked the registration of the original Macedonian party OMO Ilinden Pirin. Our application for membership again in December 2002 was rejected with a simple accusation of using a flag of a foreign country. On our flag we had placed the star of Vergena which has been the flag of the Republic of Macedonia for around 10 years. There are also other, smaller Macedonian organizations and cultural foundations that we cooperate with and undertake mutual actions.
Our actions are developing at different levels. First, by public dialog with the general population we are trying to bring to attention our existence to demonstrate that there are Macedonians in Bulgaria. In this manner we are also testing the democracy of the country. Bulgaria retains that it is not crossing human rights, however, this is not the case, as is demonstrated during our public gatherings. It is forbidden to openly meet and to speak our language in public places and if we do, we are subjected to discriminatory and derogatory slogans and actions against the Macedonians in Bulgaria. We are now trying to document all these accidents so that they may be presented to different international organizing bodies.
The third level of our activities is to sue the government and the public for discrimination of the Macedonians. At the moment there are two ongoing court cases, one filed in Strazburg, Austria, and the other in Sofia, Bulgaria, where we enter the structure of our governing bodies and lobby for our interests. I believe this last one is worrying the Bulgarian government and that is the reason for forbidding the existence of OMO Ilinden Pirin. We are now getting ready to celebrate our national holidays and our heroes in organized manner while in all our meetings we strongly obey with the principals of democracy, the human rights and the laws of the country we live in. However, this is in contrast to the thinking of the Bulgarian government because now it has no basis for legal action or to defend it's stand.
2. How will you describe the current resolutions of the Bulgarian high court to disallow the registration of yours and other Macedonian parties and organizations?
The Bulgarian court quickly showed us that it is highly political and on side with the domestic nationalistic intentions. The refusal to approve our application is not, and never was, based on legal basis. Our application it appears was looked at from the "how to refuse them" angle and not "if they are based on proper basis for registration". That is wy the legal actions were either bent and twisted or outright wrong. We are judged because we are Macedonians and not that we broke any laws. If they use the same criterium agains the rest of the parties and organizations in the country, then the political and the civil life will colapse because there would be no proper registration for any party that the government has doomed as an illegal structure. I can not speak in the name of the rest of the Macedonian organizations in Bulgaria but we have always obeyed the laws of the country and our applications have been prepared and verified by very experienced lawyers from the Helsinki Committee in Bulgaria.
Even if legal reasons do not exist to constantly refuse our registration, there is the political reason motivated by the same nacionalistic Great-Bulgarian extremists. With the refusal of our registration, the politicians are succeeding in keeping us away from the polictical life and further away from the general population. In public we are never refered to as "non-registered" but as "forbiden", with the intentions that the public becomes afraid of us. As a non-registered party, the government has cut us from our will for national action. Let me tell you that they are aware that in the end we will get our registration in international court, but the time is on their side because the procedure in the bulgarian courts will last up to 3-4 years and another 4-5 years in international courts. To us, it means 10 lost years, and that is big!
3. Bulgaria expects to enter the European Union, but it is obvious that they are predominantly occupied with great-Bulgarian nationalism. Is it possible that it will reflect on their integration in the new European political union?
We want very much for Bulgaria to enter the European Union and we support it fully. It is in our interest, because once we are in the European Union our fight for our rights will be easier to accomplish. But it is not a rumor that Bulgaria does not fulfill all the requirements. The European representatives have said the same and they advise that the country take the necessary steps towards fixing it. They basically look after the function of the judicial system which is now on a very low level. For example, for two years we have not received an answer from them on our registration. And here lies the fact that Bulgaria does not respect the multicultural rights, specifically the rights of the Macedonian minority. It may turn into a serious reason for Bulgaria not to be admitted in the European Union. In that respect we have already prepared declarations which we will send to all European embassies in Bulgaria.
4. You have earned a Masters in History with a diploma from the University of Skopje. In your opinion, what are the roots of the Bulgarian nationalism against Macedonia?
The root is in wanting "greatness" and in parallel there is their complex, the feel of lesser worth which is typical of a small country. This, at the same time, is a an obsession of historical matters and delusions. However, if the entire national ideology of Bulgaria is projected to the maximum, to include all of Macedonia as a territory, as a culture and as a history, the acknowledgment of the Macedonian identity will without doubt bring a psychological cataclysm in Bulgaria. This is explained by the fanatic fight against us which is based on ideological-psychological and not a practical base. Today, the politics for taking over Macedonia and creating a large Bulgaria has lost every basis and perspective. The unification of Europe, have made such aspirations an absurdity. However, the emotion is still stronger here than the reason.
To acknowledge that Macedonian nation, language and such exist, it is the same as Bulgaria to acknowledge that a large part of their own ideology is a lie. Here are the many Macedonians who as Bulgarians have earned big privileges and a high status in the government and the private sector. Their influence is huge. Simply, our existence threatens them and alleges that they are our expatriates, and not true Bulgarians, and that affects not only their peace of mind but also to some point their attained status. Even if we don't have any intentions or allegations, with respect to the rights of every man, they still can not come to peace with our national divide. This is not only a problem with politicians of Macedonian decent.
The belief that Macedonians are Bulgarians has become a dogmatic one, where the rejection has been expected as a slight against us. Without any doubt the policticians know of the existence of Macedonians in Bulgaria. However, if they admit to it publicly they will be labeled as traitors and bid goodbye to their political status, so they choose the easy way out - silence. So all polictical entities have become enslaved by the lies of their predecessors. Others, with a bit more consience, earn easy points by acting patriotriotic towards the macedonians. In such a condition the bulgarian political hiearchy is not able to free itself of the jaws of their own delusion. They need help from the outside. In that respect, we find ourselves to be the only true patriots in this country because we are fighting to free them from it's most terrible tyrany that has broght it so far with three political catastrophies.
However, when there is no need to look the truth in the eye, the only thing left to do is to negate it. The added reason to negate the existence of Macedonians is that until Bulgaria thrutfully acknowledges that we exist and then jointly with their laws and their signed international documents for man's rights they simply owe us to give us all the rights. That may bring unexpected results. That is why the only way to give us our rights is to insist and tell the world that we are not there.
5. Does the Blagoevgrad incident of September 12th talk about oppression that is strong in the part in the country where you live?
Your statement is quite true. However, it has to be said that the country becomes more and more sophisticated and finds new methods of repression. Under international pressure it will not dare to openly and directly go against us but they use different means. This was very well illustrated by the September 12th incident of this year. The members of the anti-Macedonian party, VMRO, were instrumental in it. They occupied the monument where we wanted to lay wreaths and the police could simply do nothing to allow us to use our normal democratic and citizen rights.
Thereafter, it will defend itself as always stating that we have revolted the local community and that it is for our good (they are acting this way) and to avoid direct contact, the city did not allow us to hold the public meeting and public address. However, that kind of danger did never exits. The local community did not react negatively against us, because first of all most of them do feel as Macedonians, and the rest know very well that the Macedonia minority in Bulgaria truly exists. Therefore, the belief of the local government is a lie unless they think that the "local population" are the 10-15 members of the local VMRO who are very close to the Bulgarian police.
The country uses the following strategy: Through imbedded people and provocation they raise the extremist thoughts in our Macedonian parties and organizations and they raise the insults and slurs. The extremist views give Bulgaria a lawful excuse for discrimination. From another point, that stand promotes us in the international level who are sympathetic to our organization.
In this situation when we do not have the power to lobby the local authority ourselves, and who does not show any indication that it will do so willingly, and when Republic of Macedonia publicly declared that it has no means to support us, the loss of support from the international union is equal to a political suicide. The extremists, who usually (but not accidentally) advertise the Bulgarian mediums all around, stack the odds against us so that they may come to the local thinking in Bulgaria in support of the politics of discrimination against the Macedonians. They often portray us as "anti-country" and "anti-Bulgarian" factor. Our party has not fallen for this provocation, however, it is unfortunate that not all Macedonian organizations here have avoided the entrapment of this smart Bulgarian plot.
6. If these tendencies do continue, what are the plans of the Macedonian organizations and parties to bring this to the international community for people's rights?
These tendencies will most likely continue. For us, there is no denial around this question. Very often we were sure that within the country's ranks there is no good-will for the resolution of the Macedonian problems in Bulgaria. The only light in the tunnel is the offer from the higher international sector. Luckily for us the rights of the people and of the minorities is an international norm and it is a basic principal in the European Union. Bulgaria, who wants to become part of Europe and also from the international community will simply have to learn to respect and allow the Macedonians their rights. We will do all that is necessary to point the attention of the international medium to our problem and we will not allow the Bulgarian government to ignore and avoid us.
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