Massive protests have taken place across North Macedonia in recent weeks against efforts to normalize relations with Bulgaria under the dictates of the European Union (EU). Nationalists and the left are taking part in the protests, with the North Macedonian government accused of undermining the country’s sovereignty by succumbing to EU dictates to ‘normalize’ relations with neighbors like Bulgaria and Greece, in order to gain EU membership. The Bulgarian government’s attempt to impose the country’s veto on North Macedonia’s EU membership led to the downfall of the pro-EU Kiril Petkov administration as a coalition partner withdrew its support for the government On the question.
Opposition parties in North Macedonia, especially the left-wing Levica, staged massive protests in the capital, Skopje, against the coalition government’s endorsement of the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) talks with Bulgaria on the “Good Neighbor Treaty” under the instigation of the EU. Levica primarily opposes the government’s embrace of foreign interests, which he says responds to the ruling class’s fascination with EU membership.
Nationalist sectors in the country are outraged by Bulgaria’s demands for special status and rights for Bulgarian minorities and North Macedonian nationals, as mentioned in the Good Neighborhood Treaty.
Despite the ousting of the government led by Kiril Petkov from power in Bulgaria on June 22, on June 24 the Bulgarian parliament voted in favor of lifting the veto on North Macedonia’s accession to the EU and continuing of the dialogue on the treaty of good neighborliness with North Macedonia. Bulgaria’s main opposition party, the conservative Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB), which had vetoed North Macedonia’s EU accession talks when in power, backed proposal. The Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) abstained from voting.
On July 5, Levica said: “People have said loud and clear ‘no’ to this humiliating decision, which the SDSM government is trying to spread among the Macedonian people with lies as a positive thing for Macedonia and manipulations according to which is the last possibility for negotiations with the EU. This will not bring Macedonia closer to the EU, the negotiation framework and the protocol do not guarantee this at any time, on the contrary, it leaves the possibility for Bulgaria to make us step back with each new chapter, via its right of veto.
“These ‘European values’ of humiliation, chauvinism and fascism on small nations, obstructing the possibility of identifying with blackmail and pressure, are not the values to which we aspire as a people and an independent state. “, added Levica.
Levica leader Dimitar Apasiev condemned the government’s attempts to portray the protesters as rioters. He also accused pro-government parties of attacking anti-government protests.
North Macedonia had signed the Prespa Agreement with Greece on June 17, 2018, to withdraw Greece’s objection to North Macedonia’s membership in the EU and NATO. As part of the agreement, Macedonia-FYROM (the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) was renamed the Republic of North Macedonia to distinguish it from the northern Greek province of Macedonia. The deal was opposed by leftists and nationalist sectors in Greece and North Macedonia. Nationalists from both countries denounced what they called the ceding of heritage linked to ancient Macedonia. The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) denounced the deal as an imperialist ploy for NATO expansionism in the region.
The Levica in North Macedonia has critical the Prespa accord, stating that it was ratified internally despite a failed referendum in the country, and that a deeply criminal internal parliamentary process resulted in four constitutional changes initiated by the accord. Levica called for the cancellation of Prespa, not only because of the criminal and illegal way in which he was adopted, but also because of his violation of the principle of self-determination. Levica also called for the country’s withdrawal from NATO membership. To date, Levica has refused to approve the country’s official name change to “North Macedonia” and has preferred to use the title “Republic of Macedonia”, as part of its protest.
In November 2019, on behalf of the Presidium of Levica, Recep “Haktan” Ismail Told Dispatch of the Peoples that “the only offer made by the country’s politicians to the Macedonian people for about 30 years after post-socialist independence, has been the achievement of two goals: NATO membership and EU membership. Demonstrating unqualified loyalty to these goals was a constant feature of all governments in the post-socialist period after 1991.
“During this period, with the help of foreign-funded media, civil society and public intellectuals, a pervasive hegemonic discourse was built around the following message: NATO membership and to the EU is synonymous with prosperity and stability; that the political elites only have to provide membership in these organizations, and prosperity and stability will automatically follow.