(Skopje) Thousands of people demonstrated in Skopje on Saturday at the call of nationalists against a draft agreement to settle the historic dispute with Bulgaria that blocked the start of negotiations for North Macedonia’s accession to the European Union (EU).
Posted at 5:53pm
The rally was backed by the main opposition party, the nationalist right-wing VMRO-DPMNE, whose leader Hristjan Mickoski said: “We don’t need Europe if it is to be assimilated! “.
“I don’t want to be part of Europe because I have the right to be a Macedonian, to speak the Macedonian language and to fight for my identity and my culture,” he added. Demonstrators came to the address with Macedonian flags and banners saying “No to the EU” or “Partisans, do not negotiate with the fascists! and cry “treason”.
Since 2020, the Bulgarian position has prevented the opening of negotiations with Skopje, but also with Tirana, with the two candidatures being linked by the EU.
Sofia eventually lifted her veto on June 24, subject to certain conditions.
Specifically, according to the compromise on the table under the just-ended French EU Presidency, Skopje must commit to amending its constitution to include Bulgarians in the recognized ethnic communities and to a 2017 friendship treaty aimed at extermination “implement”. hate speech.
North Macedonia is also being urged to review its school programs and open the communist police archives allegedly showing the ill-treatment of Bulgarians in this former Yugoslav republic.
The question of language also remains very thorny as Sofia considers the Macedonian language to be a dialect of Bulgarian while the two countries dispute historical events and figures mostly stemming from the Ottoman past.
The government in Skopje, which protesters have called for, rejected an earlier French proposal in June before agreeing to accept another.
Public consultations on its content had been launched immediately.
However, according to local experts on European issues and the opposition, the new draft agreement does not differ significantly from the first.
North Macedonia’s path to the EU had previously been blocked by Greece over a dispute over its name, which is identical to that of a region in northern Greece.
The country has been a member of NATO since 2020.