September 27, 2022

Skopje, North Macedonia (AFP) – 47 officers were injured, two of them in serious condition, after a group of young men threw stones, metal bars, eggs and Molotov cocktails at the parliament building in the capital late Tuesday, police in North Macedonia said.

Thousands of people have protested overnight in Skopje since the weekend against a French compromise proposal aimed at overturning the objections of neighboring Bulgaria to North Macedonia to join the European Union..

Police said 11 protesters were arrested on Tuesday night. Prime Minister Dimitar Kovashevsky condemned the attacks on the police, saying the violence was unjustifiable. Another protest was planned for Wednesday evening.

BulgariaAs a member of the European Union, which has veto powers over new members, North Macedonia wants to officially recognize that its language has Bulgarian roots, recognize the Bulgarian minority in the country and abolish “hate speech” against Bulgaria. Many in North Macedonia say deference would undermine their national identity.

North Macedonia’s president, Stevo Bendarovsky, and the government support the proposed French deal, which calls for the country to recognize in its constitution the presence of a Bulgarian minority. It will also provide regular reviews on how the bilateral dispute is The matter is being addressed, which could impede North Macedonia’s future path towards EU membership.

Bulgaria formally accepted the French proposal, which now required the support of the Parliament of North Macedonia. Lawmakers are scheduled to meet later this week.

The main opposition center-right party VMRO-DPMNE and many international law experts and civic organizations argue that the French proposal favors Bulgarian demands that run counter to Macedonian views of regional history, language, identity and heritage.

North Macedonia has been a candidate for EU membership for 17 years. The country got the green light in 2020 to start accession talks, but no date has been set for the start of negotiations.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the European Union at https://apnews.com/hub/european-union

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