Macedonians divided over proposal to unlock EU path
Following the demonstrations organized in Skopje against the “French proposal” to lift the Bulgarian veto on Macedonia’s accession to the European Union, and calls from civil society for a “ethnocide” and comparing the attitude of Bulgaria to that of Russia with Ukraine, the Macedonian president convened the Security Council and gave his approval to the text.
Sixteen years after North Macedonia was accepted as a candidate for EU membership, Bulgaria vetoed its candidacy for linguistic and historical reasons. This has also blocked Albania’s accession process, as the access routes to the EU of these two Western Balkan neighbors are linked.
French President Emmanuel Macron then proposed to include these points of disagreement with Bulgaria in the negotiations of the accession process.
Skopje refuted the agreement and said it did not take into account the wishes of Macedonians, such as the right to label their language and identity as Macedonian and the non-inclusion of historical issues as part of the negotiations – clauses in direct opposition to the demands of Bulgaria.
After a disastrous EU-Western Balkans summit at the end of June, during which the leaders of Skopje and Tirana attacked the EU and accused it of being “helpless” because she failed to bring Sofia down, the wheels of diplomacy kicked into gear.
French President Emmanuel Macron said at the NATO summit in Madrid on Friday: “We have continued our consultations with the Macedonian and Bulgarian authorities…Based on these consultations, I am convinced that we have found a compromise solution that suits everyone’s sensitivities. In the interests of Bulgaria and North Macedonia, acceptable to all. »
He, however, did not elaborate on the exact details, but Macedonian Foreign Minister Bujar Osmani said that “the Macedonian language and identity” were protected by the proposal.
The news was confirmed by Skopje who used more measured language and said the proposal put forward was “the basis of a broad consultative process”. EU Council President Charles Michel was more enthusiastic and said he welcomed the deal that “responds to the concerns expressed”.
In the absence of a definitive agreement, the following days will be crucial to settle the details.
However, tens of thousands of Macedonians took to the streets on Saturday to protest the French proposal and say their ethnicity and language are not negotiable. Protesters held up signs accusing Bulgaria of“ethnocide”.
Others, like Meto Koloskiof the United Macedonian Diaspora, compared Sofia’s behavior to that of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“Putin said that Ukraine and Ukrainians were invented by Stalin. Bulgarian President Radev says Macedonia and Macedonians were invented by Tito”he explained on Twitter, posting photos of the demonstration.
“We don’t need Europe if we are to be assimilated”opposition leader Hristijan Mickoski told reporters before the start of the protest. “The answer is no for the latest French proposal. »
“If Europe is not ready to accept us civilized Macedonians where we need to be, then we will wait until there are people who understand that Macedonia and the Macedonian identity are above and first of all “he added.
Meanwhile, President Stevo Pendarovski convened the National Security Council on Sunday to discuss the proposal.
He stated that it was acceptable and recommended that the government add a sentence to the document stating that “from the start of the negotiations with the EU and until their conclusion, if any party, the Bulgarian side or another, tries to undermine the Macedonian language and identity, Macedonia will immediately withdraw from the talks”.
On June 24, the Bulgarian parliament gave the outgoing cabinet a mandate to approve the French proposal. However, since then Sofia has remained tight-lipped on the details of the deal, in a bid she says is to allow Skopje to discuss the matter without speculation.
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