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6 Jul, 2022 15:31

Violent protests erupt over demands of EU neighbor (VIDEOS)

The French-led “compromise solution” between North Macedonia and Bulgaria has angered Macedonian nationalists
Violent protests erupt over demands of EU neighbor (VIDEOS)

Nearly 50 police officers were injured overnight on Wednesday amid violent protests in North Macedonia, the country’s Interior Ministry has said.

Thousands of people have rallied nightly in the capital city of Skopje since the weekend in protest of a French proposal to reach a compromise with neighboring Bulgaria and lift the roadblock Sofia had put on North Macedonia’s EU accession process.

Crowds of nationalists rallied outside the parliament building, with groups of rowdy protesters scuffling with police. Some of the demonstrators were seen throwing rocks, eggs, Molotov cocktails and other projectiles at the building as well as at police.

Forty-seven police officers were reported hurt amid the unrest, with two of them receiving “serious” injuries. Eleven protesters were detained overnight, according to the authorities. While no official figures on possible casualties among demonstrators have been provided, footage circulating online purports to show police officers violently beating some of them.

The unrest was triggered by a new twist in the long-time row between North Macedonia and neighboring Bulgaria, which had blocked Skopje’s EU accession process. Bulgaria imposed its veto in 2020 when North Macedonia, an EU candidate since 2005, along with Albania were set to start negotiations with the EU. Sofia has been wanting Skopje to formally acknowledge the Bulgarian roots of the Macedonian language, recognize the Bulgarian minority in the country, and battle “hate speech” against Bulgaria.

Progress in the years-long deadlock was seemingly made late last month, when French President Emmanuel Macron announced he had come up with a “compromise solution” that would suit both Sofia and Skopje. Macron did not provide any concrete details on the solution at the time.

While North Macedonia’s Prime Minister Dimitar Kovacevski initially branded the compromise “unacceptable,” he ultimately made a U-turn and backed it. “We have a proposal that incorporates our notes and our clearly stated stances,” he said last week, announcing a government “consultation process” on the matter.

The prospect of a compromise, however, has been firmly rejected by Macedonian nationalists, namely the right-wing VMRO-DPMNE opposition party.

“We do not need Europe if we have to be assimilated,” VMRO-DPMNE leader Hristijan Mickoski told reporters before the start of Tuesday’s protest. “The answer is no for the latest French proposal.”

“If Europe is not ready to accept us civilized Macedonians where we belong, then we will wait until there are people who will understand that Macedonia and Macedonian identity is above and before all,” he added.