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North Macedonia, Greece: Rewriting History after Prespa – Balkan Insight

Among other provisions, the Prespa Agreement envisaged the formation of a joint commission to review aspects of the history curriculum in each country that are disputed by the other. Over the last century, similar bilateral commissions have helped France and Poland reach agreement with Germany on the teaching of their shared, troubled past.

This story by BIRN, based on interviews with historians and commission members, examines how differences over the distant past have been caught up in the currents of diplomacy in the Balkans. Most of these differences are still to be ironed out because the work of the historians in the joint commission has been contingent upon domestic election cycles, and upon North Macedonia’s uncertain progress towards EU membership.

“For Macedonian historians, the main motivation for taking part in this process lies in the fact that it might ease their country’s way into the European Union,” said Ulf Brunnbauer, the academic director of the Leibniz Institute for East and Southeast European Studies in Regensburg, Germany. “If the opportunity structure changes, the whole thing runs into the sand.”

‘Reproducing harmful stereotypes’

While the Prespa agreement was hailed by the EU, it proved unpopular on both sides of the border, sparking street protests by nationalists and far-right groups. Weakened by accusations of betrayal, neither government that ratified the deal is still in office.

That the deal itself has endured these two years is testament to the work of its supporters and to the EU’s extraordinary leverage in the region. Yet its survival is far
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