EP rapporteur visits Skopje, addresses concerns of Bulgarian Cultural Club
The European Parliament’s rapporteur on the progress of Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Richard Howitt, will visit Skopje between 19 and 20 September.
Before New Europe, the rapporteur confirmed that his office received the letter of the Bulgarian Cultural Club (BCC) in Skopje dated 5 September in which its chairman, Lazar Mladenov, informed the MEP about the most shocking cases of discrimination against Bulgarian community in the country in the last few years.
Among others, the letter dealt with the boycott and inappropriate comments of the media in the country in relation to the first general celebration of Ilinden Uprising in Smilevo. Mladenov also informed the rapporteur about the threats to him and his family which came from the head of the FYROM’s State Office for Security a week after the event.
The EP rapporteur said that he will meet representatives from the Bulgarian Cultural Club in Skopje and will discuss with them the letter and the cases enumerated in it. In addition, Richard Howitt, said that during his regular visit he will also meet FYROM’s foreign minister and leaders of political parties with whom he will have a dialogue on increasing mutual understanding between the various national groups in the country.
The MEP also plans to raise the issue of discriminatory practices against people having Bulgarian ethnic background in the country, as well as unveil the letter he received from the Bulgarian Cultural Club before the relevant authorities in FYROM.
The issue of discrimination against the Bulgarian community in FYROM was addressed by rapporteur Richard Howitt also in his last year’s report in which he emphasised the importance of preventing discrimination on ethnic grounds, in particular ‘discrimination against citizens expressing openly their Bulgarian identity and/or ethnic background’.
In addition, the report expressed the rapporteur’s ‘disappointment at the lack of progress in joint celebrations of common historic events and figures with neighbouring EU Member States, which would contribute to a better understanding of history and good neighbourly relations’. Moreover, the document encouraged ‘the establishment of joint expert committees on history and education with Bulgaria and Greece, with the aim of contributing to an objective, fact-based interpretation of history, strengthening academic cooperation and promoting positive attitudes in young people towards their neighbours’.
On 14 September, a week ahead of their meeting with the EP rapporteur, the representatives of BCC met the Bulgarian foreign minister, Nikolay Mladenov, who asked for more information concerning the issue of discrimination against Bulgarian community in FYROM. His aim is to find out whether the cases presented by BCC also showed systematic violation of human rights of people with Bulgarian identity.
It seems that the disputes between Bulgaria and its western neighbour are heating up the atmosphere not only on the Balkans, but are also more often brought to the European Institutions in Brussels.
At the end of August, the capital of Europe was in the middle of a misunderstanding, involving exhibition of ancient manuscripts in the Mariemont Royal Museum. FYROM claimed that the manuscripts were theirs, while Bulgaria intervened and openly stated that they were Bulgarian. As a consequence, the museum had to change the name of the exhibition.