Bulgarian President Calls for Prompt Response to Alerts about Discrimination against Bulgarians in North Macedonia

NW 15:41:31 22-02-2021

Bulgarian President Calls for Prompt Response
to Alerts about Discrimination against
Bulgarians in North Macedonia

Sofia, February 22 (BTA) - Bulgarian President Rumen Radev has called on the responsible institutions in Bulgaria and the Republic of North Macedonia to respond promptly to alerts about significant issues confronting Bulgarians in North Macedonia, the head of State's Press Secretariat said here on Monday.

Radev's position is prompted by a letter from ethnic Bulgarians in the Republic of North Macedonia, received at the Administration of the President, in which they voice concern over their ongoing discrimination in that country, the press release says.

The head of State argues that respect for the free right to self-determination of Bulgarians in the Republic of North Macedonia who, despite all repressions during the totalitarian past, have preserved and continue to openly express their Bulgarian national identity, is a key step in the promotion of good-neighbourly relations between the two countries.

The President expects the official authorities in North Macedonia to counter the alarming proportions that hate speech against Bulgaria and Bulgarians in that country are assuming, given that over 100,000 people in the Republic of North Macedonia hold Bulgarian citizenship acquired on the basis of their freely expressed will and documented Bulgarian ethnic origin, and that Bulgarian citizenship applications of thousands of others are being processed. "Bulgarians in the Republic of North Macedonia must enjoy equal rights with the rest of the citizens in that country, in line with the most rigorous world and European standards. This basic principle of democracy is also enshrined in the spirit of the 2017 Treaty of Friendship, Good-neighbourliness and Cooperation between the two countries," Radev's position reads.

The Bulgarian President backs appeals by the ethnic Bulgarians in their letter to the Bulgarian institutions for easing the Bulgarian citizenship acquisition procedures for North Macedonia's citizens who openly declare their Bulgarian identity, and to the institutions in that country for creating all conditions and guaranteeing the right to free and clear expression of the will of those wishing to identify themselves as Bulgarians by descent in accordance with the principles of international law.

Later on Monday, reacting to the President's appeal, the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry issued a position recalling that the Ministry has always responded to such alerts at all diplomatic levels and has often made public the steps it has been taking. "We express satisfaction that the head of State shares our position that the Republic of North Macedonia must respect the right to self-determination of all its citizens, including those who identify themselves as Bulgarians," the Foreign Ministry's press release says.

In December 2020, Bulgarian Justice Minister Desislava Ahladova told Parliament during Question Time that over 65,000 Macedonians had acquired Bulgarian citizenship since 2010. More than 77,000 citizenship applications had been submitted by nationals of North Macedonia, the largest number in 2018 (nearly 13,000) and in 2012 and 2019 (over 10,000 each). A total of 1,963 applications were submitted between January 1 and October 31, 2020.

On Sunday, Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister Krassimir Karakachanov said in a Bulgarian National Television interview that since November 2020, when Bulgaria blocked the start of that country's EU accession negotiations, Bulgarians there have come under mounting pressure and repressions from the local political elite. A senior official of North Macedonia's Defence Ministry has called for the extradition of all Bulgarians in that country to Bulgaria. Another public official has published a list of all settlements in North Macedonia where there are Bulgarians, urging that they should be spit on and beaten, Karakachanov said.

The non-governmental Bulgarian National Platform for Unification and Development has reported that some 150 cars with Bulgarian registration plates were immobilized and 1,200 fines were served on drivers of such vehicles during a police operation in Ohrid, Struga, Bitola, Stip, Kocani, Veles, Strumica, Radovis, Gevgelija and parts of Skopje in January 2021, "while cars with Albanian, Kosovo and Serbian plates are not pulled over for such checks, which can easily be established by an independent on-site check in Kumanovo or Tetovo, where such vehicles are most common". NV/LG