Dear friends and acquaintances, distinguished citizens and fellow Macedonians and Albanians; Turks, Vlachs, Roma, Serbs, and Bosniaks. Today is 2 August – Ilinden; an important day for our country in a historical context; an important holiday through which we foster the importance of the values of the Krushevo Manifesto and the ASNOM conclusions, which along with the Ohrid Framework Agreement we value as pillars in the construction of our common country.
In the modern context, this is a holiday that builds bridges to connect us both internally and externally. We grew up with the idea that Ilinden is a monument of the togetherness of the peoples which lived here; therefore today we rightfully expect that Ilinden will grow into our contemporary through which we will mark our shared historical values.
And today, we are faced with different challenges. Our strategic interests, since the country’s independence, are channeled in our ambition for full-fledged membership in the North-Atlantic Alliance and the European Union. The success of becoming the 30th NATO member state only confirms that we are on the right path to building unity and integration, following the values epitomized by today’s holiday.
In the same manner that we strengthened our domestic integration through the Ohrid Framework Agreement, in the same manner that we overcame the differences with our neighbour Greece through the Prespa Agreement, we will in the same manner overcome the differences with our neighbour Bulgaria through the implementation of the Friendship Treaty. Ilinden is an important day for our neighbours in the Republic of Bulgaria as well. Unfortunately, in the past, and, not uncommonly, today, as well, that was mostly a reason for divide and disagreement instead of a point of connection and unity. In today’s modern context, it is our obligation to turn Ilinden into precisely that – a point that will connect us, a holiday that will unite us; a historical event through the historical celebration of which we will show mutual respect and mutual recognition.
Voicing respect for diversity, for the different view on historical developments, today we undertake an obligation to create modern social currents that will provide a shared future for the citizens for the two countries. Through increased sector cooperation we allow citizens, businesses, artists and all other social stakeholders to upgrade mutual relations regardless of political differences. Additionally, through the work of the Joint Expert Commission we will continue to look for points that connect us, removing the differences that keep us apart.
And not only as a challenge for the bilateral relations with Bulgaria, but as a country in which individual rights are a foundation for collective benefits, we express a clear will – in social, legal, even constitutional sense – to allow all those citizens of North Macedonia, who identify as part of the Bulgarian people, to freely express that will, respecting their different view of our shared history.
But that in any way cannot and will not turn into forcing this view on our citizens who have a different perspective on the shared history. The uniqueness of the Macedonian people and the Macedonian language are a reality in any sense; and Macedonians, as all other people, have the right to their own feelings, their own convictions and their own view on historical events and contexts – no matter how common they are.
That is why Ilinden is important even today. Because through marking the historical events that connect us, we voice respect for contemporary differences.