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Bulgaria: Minority Rights a Prerequisite to EU Membership

October 31, 2006


Source: United Macedonian Diaspora

Washington, D.C. – The United Macedonian Diaspora (UMD) calls on the European Union and the European Court of Human Rights to ensure that human rights, and in particular, the rights of the Macedonian minority, are respected by the Government of the Republic of Bulgaria.

Over the past 50 years, successive Bulgarian governments have systematically discriminated against the country’s Macedonian minority. Most recently, Bulgarian authorities have demonstrated a blatant disregard for the right to freedom of expression and association, and are once again attempting to refuse to register the Macedonian organization OMO Ilinden PIRIN as a legal political party.

OMO Ilinden PIRIN was established in Bulgaria as a political party in February 1998 and legally registered in February 1999. Subsequently, the Bulgarian Constitutional Court banned the party in February 2000. In October 2005, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg judged that the Republic of Bulgaria violated the right to freedom of expression and association of the Macedonian minority, ruling that OMO Ilinden PIRIN should be registered.

In a bid to regain registration, OMO Ilinden PIRIN re-commenced the process in June 2006 and accumulated the necessary signatories. However, Bulgarian authorities continued to hinder the registration process for OMO Ilinden PIRIN with unnecessary changes to the relevant laws including increasing the minimum party membership to 5,000 signatories. OMO Ilinden PIRIN has in fact accumulated nearly 6,000 members for this registration procedure.

In the lead-up to the Bulgarian Court’s decision on whether to grant official registration (due on 1 November 2006), Bulgarian authorities have intimidated members of OMO Ilinden PIRIN with detainment and threatened with deportation, loss of citizenship, loss of employment and pension benefits, and even execution.

Examples of this have included comments by Bulgarian Members of Parliament that members of the party (OMO Ilinden PIRIN) should be put in jail without trial (Krasimir Karakachanov and Boris Yachev, leaders of the ultra-nationalist Bulgarian VMRO-BND), that “Macedonians should be shot dead if they go out into the streets” (Veselin Danov, Municipality Councilor, Varna), and that “all Macedonians should be expelled from Bulgaria” (Lazar Prichkapov, Mayor of Blagoevgrad). Furthermore, the Bulgarian media has run a vicious campaign against the Macedonian minority and OMO Ilinden PIRIN in the lead up to the Bulgarian Court’s decision on registration.

Macedonians in Bulgaria need the assistance of European authorities. The United Macedonian Diaspora calls on the European Union and the European Court of Human Rights to intervene in this situation, and ensure that the judgment made by the European Court of Human Rights – legal registration of OMO Ilinden PIRIN as a political party in Bulgaria – is implemented without further delay, and that this process is overseen, if necessary, by an objective third party.

Founded in 2004, United Macedonian Diaspora is an international membership organization based in Washington, D.C. addressing the interests and needs of Macedonians and Macedonian communities throughout the world. For more information about United Macedonian Diaspora the public is invited to contact the D.C. office at (202) 294-3400, or e-mail at info@umdiaspora.org.

     
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