In North Macedonia Monitoring Report, CoE Commission Expresses Concern over Attacks, Hate Speech against Persons Self-Identifying as Bulgarian

Council of Europe, ECRI, North Macedonia report 2023

Sept 20, 2023. Posted by  Balkan Periscope - Hellas


The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) with the Council of Europe (CoE) Wednesday put out a monitoring report on the Republic of North Macedonia which notes, among other things, attacks on persons self-identifying as Bulgarians.


It is the 6th monitoring cycle report on North Macedonia, assessing developments in the country's efforts to combat discrimination and promote equality, ECRI says on its website.

"Several attacks on persons self-identifying as Bulgarians and on Bulgarian cultural centres have raised concern, as did  the authorities’ move towards deregistering/dissolving some existing Bulgarian cultural associations," ECRI said.

Other ethnic groups, such as Roma or Bulgarians, are also victims of hate speech, the report says.

"Anti-Bulgarian hate speech is also a frequent occurrence in North Macedonia according to ethnic Bulgarian interlocutors met by ECRI. A typical anti-Bulgarian stereotype used is that of labelling all Bulgarians as “fascists”. Another widespread insult targets Bulgarian women, portraying them as “cheap prostitutes”. The second example, being a case of intersectional discrimination/hate speech in which a group of persons is targeted because of their combination of ethnic origin and gender, was also visible on signs that were held up for public display by some spectators during the football match of the national teams of North Macedonia and Bulgaria on September 26, 2022 in Skopje. ECRI also heard allegations that the second term is used on occasion on Channel 5, a public TV station," the report says.

The report goes on to mention an arson attack against the Bulgarian cultural centre in Bitola on June 4, 2022 and says that yet another anti-Bulgarian attack took place on 19 January 2023, in which the Secretary of a Bulgarian Cultural Club in Ohrid was beaten and severely injured by three unidentified persons, leaving the victim in urgent need of hospitalization.

"ECRI recommends that the authorities continue taking a strong public stance condemning all forms of violence against persons who self-identify as ethnic Bulgarians or their organisations as well as ensuring that local-level authorities do
the same. Also, in line with the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights, the authorities should refrain from cancelling the registration of, or dissolving, associations of persons self-identifying as Bulgarians in North Macedonia, if they do not incite, promote, spread or justify violence, hatred or discrimination. If necessary, a Council of Europe expert opinion on the revised Law on Associations and Foundations should be sought and the relevant provisions reviewed
accordingly," the report says. 

On the positive side, the report catalogues some notable developments since the previous report in 2016. Among them is the establishment of the Commission on Prevention and Protection against Discrimination (CPPD), a new equality body; progress in the field of inclusive education to support multiculturalism, inter-ethnic integration, and tolerance in schools; positive steps regarding the protection of LGBTI persons; efforts to combat hate crime; and initiatives under the national Roma strategy to improve Roma inclusion.