SKOPJE, North Macedonia (AP) — Police in North Macedonia said 47 officers were injured, two of them seriously, after a group of mostly young people threw stones, metal bars, eggs and Molotov cocktails at the parliament building in the capital late Tuesday.
Thousands of people have protested nightly in Skopje since the weekend over a French proposal for a compromise aimed at lifting objections by neighboring Bulgaria to North Macedonia joining the European Union.
Police said 11 protesters were detained Tuesday night. Prime Minister Dimitar Kovacevski condemned the attacks on the police, saying violence cannot be justified. Another protest was planned for Wednesday evening.
Bulgaria, which as an EU member has veto powers over new members, wants North Macedonia to formally recognize its language has Bulgarian roots, to recognize a Bulgarian minority in the country and to quash “hate speech” against Bulgaria. Many in North Macedonia say acquiescing would undermine their national identity.
North Macedonia’s president, Stevo Pendarovski, and the government back the proposed French deal, which calls for the country to acknowledge in its constitution the existence of an ethnic Bulgarian minority. It would also provide for regular reviews on how the bilateral dispute is being addressed, which could potentially hamper North Macedonia’s future course toward EU membership.
Bulgaria has already formally accepted the French proposal, which now requires the backing of North Macedonia’s parliament. Lawmakers are set to convene later this week.
The center-right main opposition party VMRO-DPMNE, many international law experts and civic organizations counter that the French proposal favors Bulgarian demands which dispute Macedonian views of regional history, language, identity and heritage.
North Macedonia has been a candidate for EU membership for 17 years. The country received a green light in 2020 to begin accession talks, but no date for the start of the negotiations has been set.