Ethnic Macedonian Political Party in Bulgaria Set to Register and is Positive on EU Accession

October 4, 2006

Petrich, Bulgaria, Wednesday, 04 October 2006 by Georgios N. Papadakis

The ethnic Macedonian political party in Bulgaria, OMO Ilinden Pirin, has made a decisive step towards its legitimization and official registration with the Bulgarian courts after collecting 5,000 signatures. This is the amount required by Bulgaria as a precondition for any political party that wants to be legal and active in national elections.

"It's a historic landmark for Macedonians in Bulgaria and a strong signal that we are here and will pursue our full rights as future EU citizens", says Stojko Stojkov, OMO Ilinden Pirin president, to Eurolang.

He also commented on the recent European Commission suggestion to EU leaders that will most likely bring Bulgaria and Romania inside the Union as from next January, highlighting that this could be very positive for all Bulgarian citizens, including the country's large Macedonian community.

"We don't think Bulgaria objectively deserves to be in the EU. The country has not fulfilled essential criteria in terms of the recognition and protection of its minorities, not to mention that it's plagued by high inflation, smuggling, unemployment, low salaries and pensions. In addition, reforms are not implemented as quickly and eagerly as they need to be". But because EU accession is mostly a political decision, Stojkov hopes that it will be positive for the Macedonians in Bulgaria and for their efforts for recognition.

Last week, European Free Alliance (EFA) heavily criticized the Commission's positive report on the accession of Bulgaria, urging the country to fully respect minority rights.

Referring to the findings of the mid-September party delegation's visit in the Pirin region, EFA president Nelly Maes said: "We witnessed on the spot that the country has neither a democratic tradition nor the willingness to respect the minorities in the country. The Macedonians living in Bulgaria are ignored and denied the rights of association. It is a shame the Commission has not learned from the enlargement of 2004."

Mr Bernat Joan i Mari, Catalan MEP and head of the delegation, added that the EU must not take a weak position and close their eyes on human rights because bigger problems than the present ones in some EU countries will emerge.

OMO Ilinden Pirin was founded in 1999 and participated in the local elections in October of the same year. However, a few months later the Bulgarian Constitutional Court declared the party illegal, claiming that its "aims were directly against the unity of the nation".

Since then Bulgaria has tried to thwart any activity of OMO Ilinden Pirin by initially setting the number of signatures required to register as a political party at 500. When the party collected the required amount of signatures, the law was modified for yet another time, putting the signature quota to 5,000.

Stojko Stojkov seems optimistic that the Bulgarian state will not change the law again and he will soon register the Macedonian party. (Eurolang 2006)

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