EU member Bulgaria has insisted that North Macedonia recognise its language has Bulgarian roots and acknowledge in its constitution a Bulgarian minority Macedonia’s main opposition party rejects the proposition, arguing it favours Bulgarian demands that dispute Macedonian history, language and identity
Tens of thousands massed outside government offices in Skopje, Macedonia late on Saturday to protest against a French proposal for solving the country’s dispute with Bulgaria that is blocking membership talks with the European Union.
A protester wearing a shirt, reading in Macedonian “Macedonia is alive” attends a protest in front of the government building in Skopje, Macedonia on Saturday. Photo: AP Macedonia’s government has said the proposal is a “solid base.” But the main opposition centre-right VMRO-DPMNE party rejects the proposition, arguing it favours Bulgarian demands that dispute Macedonian history, language, identity, culture and inheritance.
“We do not need Europe if we have to be assimilated,” opposition leader Hristijan Mickoski told reporters before the start of the protest. “The answer is no for the latest French proposal.”
People wave the old and the current national flags of Macedonia as they attend a protest in front of the government building in Skopje, Macedonia on Saturday. Photo: AP
“If Europe is not ready to accept us civilised Macedonians where we belong, then we will wait until there are people who will understand that Macedonia and Macedonian identity is above and before all,” he added.
Bulgaria, a member of the EU, has insisted that Macedonia formally recognise that its language has Bulgarian roots, acknowledge in its constitution a Bulgarian minority and quash “hate speech” against Bulgaria.
French President Emmanuel Macron announced earlier this week at the Nato summit in Madrid that he believed “a compromise solution” had been achieved, without giving details. “I’m convinced we have found a compromise solution,” he said.
Macedonia’s foreign minister, Bujar Osmani, said that “Macedonian language and identity” are protected by the French proposal and “it should be accepted as soon as possible” for the country to start the accession talks with the EU.
Macedonia has been a candidate for EU membership for 17 years. The country received a green light in 2020 to begin accession talks, but no date for the start of the negotiations has been set.
Bulgaria has used its power as an EU member to block Macedonia’s membership, since all enlargement decisions require unanimous approval from the 27-nation bloc.
The dispute has also stalled Albania’s progress toward EU membership because the bloc is treating the pair as a political package. All three countries are Nato members.
The protest ended peacefully. Another one was planned for Sunday.