Macedonian Human Rights Movement International
MILS News: "Bulgaria Changes the Relation Towards Macedonian Minority"

Macedonians from Bulgaria yesterday without any pressures or threats by the police, celebrated the anniversary of the murder of Macedonian revolutionary, Jane Sandanski. On the celebration in the Rozen Monastery near the city of Sandanski, the Bulgarian police did not make any trouble, as it was the case in the previous ten years, reports "Deutsche Welle" radio. The ceremony was organized by the Macedonian organizations in Bulgaria, "OMO Ilinden-Pirin" and "OMO Ilinden", flowers on the grave laid the Macedonian Ambassador in Bulgaria, Ljubisa Georgievski. President of "OMO Ilinden-Pirin", Ivan Singartiski for "Deutsche Welle" radio stated that after the verdict in Strasbourg attitude of the Bulgarian authorities about celebration of the anniversary of the murder of Sandanski started changing. As it is known, the European Court of Justice, condemned Bulgaria for not allowing the Macedonians to celebrate historic persons in the last ten years.

The following is the press release by Radio Free Europe on the same topic:

RFE/RL Balkan Report
Vol. 6, No. 18, 3 May 2002

MACEDONIANS IN BULGARIA MEET WITHOUT INCIDENT. For the first time since the fall of communism in Bulgaria, members of the Macedonian minority gathered peacefully in the vicinity of the southern Bulgarian Rozhen monastery on 21 April, "Utrinski vesnik" reported. The meeting marked the anniversary of the death in 1915 of a Macedonian national hero, Jane Sandanski.

As in previous years, the meeting was organized by the United Macedonian Organization -- Ilinden (OMO-Ilinden) and the United Macedonian Organization -- Ilinden-PIRIN (Party for Economic Development and Integration of the Population). Both organizations claim to represent the Macedonian minority in Bulgaria.

In previous years, police actions to prohibit or disperse the meetings of the Macedonian minority won Bulgaria a dubious place in the annual reports of human rights organizations such as Amnesty International.

Now, the situation seems to have changed. Not only did the Rozhen meeting take place undisturbed, but the third congress of OMO-Ilinden took place in Blagoevgrad over the weekend of 27-28 April without government interference. The convention elected a new chairman -- Boris Pavlov.

At the congress, the organization's leadership renewed its demands for constitutional changes in Bulgaria to allow the formation of political parties on an ethnic basis. Outgoing OMO-Ilinden chairman Jordan Kostadinov also reiterated the organization's demand to be allowed to register as a legal organization.

Ivan Singartiski, the chairman of the United Macedonian Organization -- Ilinden-PIRIN told journalists from "Utrinski vesnik" after the Rozhen meeting that the new policy of the Bulgarian government towards the Macedonian minority is the result of last year's ruling by the European Court of Human Rights. The court found that the Bulgarian state had violated the right of ethnic Macedonians to assemble.

But it might also be that the Bulgarian government was careful not to invite international criticism at a time crucial for the country's bid to join NATO and the EU. At the time of the Rozhen meeting, large Bulgarian delegations were in Washington and Brussels to present Bulgaria's case to the U.S. government and the North Atlantic Council. (Ulrich Buechsenschuetz,