Radev to Várhelyi: We are witnessing discrimination and hate crimes against Bulgarians in North Macedonia
In front of the EU Enlargement Commissioner, President Rumen Radev expressed his concerns that the systematic discrimination against Bulgarians in North Macedonia was increasing. The Head of State said that Bulgaria expects the European institutions to react not only when the rights of MEPs are affected, but also of ordinary people with Bulgarian identity. The reason for this is the case of 6 May, when MEP Andrey Kovachev was not allowed to visit North Macedonia, which caused a strong reaction from the European institutions.
President Rumen Radev and Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement, Oliver Várhelyi met at the Presidency as people who worked on the 1+5 formula, which prioritised the inclusion of Bulgarians in the Constitution of the Republic of North Macedonia and opened the way for the country to join the EU. The President reminded that Skopje has not yet fulfilled its main commitment.
"There has been no progress on the most important issue, which is also a precondition for the start of the negotiations, namely a change in the Constitution with the inclusion of the Bulgarians as a constituent part of the state-forming peoples," said Rumen Radev, President of the Republic of Bulgaria.
Radev noted the arson, attacks and shootings against Bulgarian clubs and the adoption of a special law with retroactive effect, through which out of 17,000 associations in North Macedonia only 2 were banned, both of them Bulgarian - "Tsar Boris the Third" in Ohrid and "Ivan Mihailov" in Bitola.
"We are witnessing increasing systematic discrimination, police, administrative and judicial arbitrariness against Bulgarian associations, increasing hate crimes against Bulgarians and people with Bulgarian identity in the Republic of North Macedonia" Radev said.
Radev expressed his concern about the attacks on Bulgarians like Kristian Pendikov.
The President thanked for the sharp reaction of Várhelyi and the European institutions against the non-admission of MEP Andrei Kovachev to North Macedonia to go to the Bulgarian military cemetery in Novo Selo, and said that he expects similar reactions when the rights of the Macedonian Bulgarians are also affected.
Commissioner Várhelyi noted that the European Commission will continue to monitor the fulfilment of the good-neighbourliness criteria by the Republic of North Macedonia.
"The European criteria for good neighbourly relations, as part of the Copenhagen criteria, have always been very clear and we have already translated what they mean in the relations between Bulgaria and the Republic of North Macedonia", said Oliver Várhelyi. He noted that the European Commission will continue to monitor the fulfilment of the good-neighbourliness criteria by the RNM.
"The European criteria for good neighbourly relations, as part of the Copenhagen criteria, have always been very clear and we have already translated what they mean in the relations between Bulgaria and the RNM", said Oliver Várhelyi.
According to the commissioner, 2023 should be the year when the integration processes in the Western Balkans should be accelerated.
Later, Várhelyi. met with GERB leader Boyko Borissov, who said that Bulgaria has fulfilled its duty to support the European perspective of the RNM and now it is time for our neighbours to fulfil their commitments to constitutionally guarantee the rights of people with Bulgarian identity.
Images by BGNES