The European Free Alliance (EFA) and its member OMO Ilinden Pirin presented the current situation of the Macedonian minority in Bulgaria during the latest meeting of the Intergroup for Traditional Minorities of the European Parliament in Strasbourg. Besides Macedonians, reports about the situation concerning the Roma, Turkish and Pomak minorities were also presented during the meeting, highlighting the ongoing deficit in minority recognitiion and protection.
More specifically,the Macedonian minority in Bulgaria was recognized, included in national censuses (around a million people declared themselves as Macedonians) and enjoyed some minority rights in the period after WW2 and until 1963. These rights included the language and history, programs in Macedonian on Bulgarian national radio and freedom in establishing various associations. This drastically changed after 1963 and the new policy was summarized in a sentence of Bulgaria’s communist leader Todor Zhivkov: There is not and cannot be a Macedonian minority in Bulgaria. All rights of the Macedonians were suspended, many ended up in prisons and unfortunately this is the national doctrine of Bulgaria towards the Macedonians until today.
What does this doctrine means in real terms:
Not a single one of the essential rights a minority should enjoy is exercised. On the contrary, there is an official policy of denying the Macedonian national identity at all levels and all powers (legislative, parliamentary, judicial etc.)
Hate speech. Every statement of Macedonian consciousness or even the mere fact of declaring a Macedonian identity is treated as national treason and Macedonians are portrayed as spies, traitors, brain-washed, paid agents, children of the Comintern etc. Official Bulgaria supports these stereotypes and is treating Macedonians as a threat to the unity and national security of the country, while publicly declaring a Macedonian identity is considered an act again the Bulgarian constitution.
Despite the fact that Bulgaria has been convicted at least 8 times from the ECHR for various forms of discrimination against Macedonians, the Bulgarian state refuses to comply and continues to deny Macedonians any form of protection against discrimination.
Macedonians are systematically excluded from the political and social developments. Bulgarian authorities rejected so far all applications to register civic or political platforms of the Macedonians, claiming that such organizations would be working against the national interests of Bulgaria, its territorial integrity and its constitution. Bulgaria even changed the law on registration of political parties multiple times, increasing the number of signatures required to form a political association and terrified signatories with police interrogations, just to make sure that Macedonians don’t have their own political platform. Needless to say that no other Bulgarian political party makes the slightest reference to the legitimate demands of the Macedonians.
Lack of any dialogue. Despite the numerous efforts of the Macedonian minority and the recommendations of international organizations (ECRI, Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention on Protection of National Minorities-COE a.o.), Bulgaria refuses any form of dialogue
The only positive evolution over the last 20 years, mainly because of Bulgaria’s EU accession, is that the Bulgarian authorities do not ban or obstruct the public gatherings of the Macedonians, something really too little to be considered significant progress. EFA believies that it is about time for the country to accept reality and start implementing policies to protect minorities rather than wishing they never existed.