Concessions to Bulgaria prompts violence in North Macedonia

Northern Macedonia’s concessions on ethnic rights as part of EU accession talks prompts violent protests in Skopje.

At least 47 police officers have been injured in the North Macedonian capital of Skopje during protests against the government’s concessions on ethnic rights as part of EU accession talks, according to news agency Makfax that cited the police.

Wednesday’s report said that two of the 47 officers were seriously injured in the Tuesday protests. Eleven protesters were arrested.

Nationalist opposition party VMRO-DPMNE had called for the protests, enraged because of concessions to Bulgaria amid the EU accession process.

EU member Bulgaria had blocked the start of accession talks with North Macedonia for more than two years, demanding that the population of about 3,500 Bulgarians living in North Macedonia be mentioned in its constitution, to guarantee their equal rights.

North Macedonian Prime Minister Dimitar Kovacevski had told EU President Charles Michel on Tuesday that his country can live with the concessions that Bulgaria has already formally accepted and now requires the backing of North Macedonia’s parliament.

Watered down

Originally, Bulgaria had made far greater demands, touching on language issues and the way North Macedonia records its history.

However, the nationalist opposition considers even the watered-down concessions to be unacceptable.

Protesters threw rocks, fireworks, petrol bombs and other objects at police and damaged government buildings, including some of the parliament and the Foreign Ministry, according to reports.

North Macedonia has been a candidate for EU membership for 17 years. The country received a green light in 2020 to begin accession talks but no date for the start of the negotiations has been set.

In 2018, it agreed to change its name from Macedonia to North Macedonia to gain the support for its EU membership from its neighbour Greece.

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