Tuesday

25th Jul 2017

Bulgaria sends army to Macedonia border

  • Borisov: 'The military are at the border in case ... God forbid, things in Macedonia worsen' (Photo: 7armyjmtc)

Bulgaria has sent soldiers to its border with Macedonia, where a political crisis is brewing after violence which claimed 22 lives last weekend, Bulgarian PM Boiko Borisov told parliament on Wednesday (13 May).

The measure is meant to stop a possible wave of refugees from the smaller south-western neighbour with which Bulgaria shares centuries of dramatic history and still has unresolved issues.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now and get 40% off for an annual subscription. Sale ends soon.

  1. €90 per year. Use discount code EUOBS40%
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

The troops are also preparing to prevent potential terrorist attacks, Borisov said.

“The military are at the border, they are preparing [weapon] emplacements in case, God forbid, things in Macedonia worsen,” he said.

A police raid in the northern Macedonian town of Kumanovo over the weekend resulted in the deaths of 14 ethnic Albanians and eight policemen.

The government of Macedonia’s embattled prime minister Nikola Gruevski said it had encountered terrorists who penetrated from a neighbouring state in an attempt to destabilise the country.

Meanwhile, Gruevski’s interior minister Gordana Jankulovska and security service chief Saso Mijalkovski quit Wednesday because of mounting allegations of illegal wiretapping and intimidation of media.

Borisov said Bulgaria feared turmoil and an ensuing humanitarian crisis in Macedonia, a third of whose 2 million people are ethnic Albanian.

The fragile peace in the country rests on a 2001 accord between the Slavic-speaking majority and the ethnic Albanians which ended an armed conflict between government forces and Albanian guerrillas.

Bulgaria is ready to accept some 90,000 Macedonian citizens who hold Bulgarian passports, Borisov said. But he indicated that beefing up border security is meant to contain a potential surge of refugees.

“Those who hold Bulgarian passports … may come to Bulgaria but we should also get ready for a humanitarian crisis”, Borisov said.

He said the army and a special anti-terrorist unit are engaged in joint exercises to hunt terrorists in the mountainous border area.

Bulgarians view Macedonians as their ethnic kin and consider the latter’s language a strain of Bulgarian. Both peoples use the Cyrillic alphabet and understand each other without an interpreter.

But Gruevski has done little to heed EU recommendations to stop anti-Bulgarian rhetoric in politics and media, which the EU commission has repeatedly described as being tightly controlled by his government.

Talks with Bulgaria on a bilateral treaty on good neighbourly relations have ground to a halt as Macedonia’s crisis deepened in recent months.

Bulgaria wants the treaty to solve bilateral problems, such as Skopje's call to recognise a “Macedonian minority” in Bulgaria and questions over the rights of Bulgarians in Macedonia.

Sofia is conditioning its possible consent to opening EU accession talks with Macedonia on the latter’s signing of such a treaty.

Meanwhile, Greece has been blocking the opening of EU talks for the past five years.

Athens wants Macedonia to change its name, which coincides with the name of a northern Greek province and which, Athens says, implies a territorial claim.

Regardless of its six year-old recommendation for the EU to open accession talks with Macedonia, the commission has repeatedly criticised it for insufficient progress on rule of law and respect of fundamental rights, as well as lack of improvement in relations with neighbours.

Tens of thousands urge Macedonia PM to go

Tens of thousands of protestors on Sunday called for the resignation of Macedonian leader Gruevski - the biggest demonstration in 24 years of independence.

Opinion

EU options on the Macedonia crisis

Corruption, ethnic power struggles, Russian meddling: Macedonia risks dragging the Western Balkans backward. But the EU has options.

Opinion

Don't fence me in

Razor-wire round Serbia risks destabilising the region and making "Fortress Europe" a grimly visible reality.

Journalists on trial highlight Turkey crackdown

The trial, which opened Monday, of 17 journalists and administrative employees of the daily newspaper Cumhuriyet is considered one of the most important episodes in a systematic campaign to silence dissent.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EU2017EELocal Leaders Push for Local and Regional Targets to Address Climate Change
  2. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceMore Women Than Men Have Died From Heart Disease in Past 30 Years
  3. European Jewish CongressJean-Marie Le Pen Faces Trial for Oven Comments About Jewish Singer
  4. ACCAAnnounces Belt & Road Research at Shanghai Conference
  5. ECPAFood waste in the field can double without crop protection. #WithOrWithout #pesticides
  6. EU2017EEEstonia Allocates €1 Million to Alleviate Migratory Pressure From Libya in Italy
  7. Dialogue PlatformFethullah Gulen's Message on the Anniversary of the Coup Attempt in Turkey
  8. Martens CentreWeeding out Fake News: An Approach to Social Media Regulation
  9. European Jewish CongressEJC Concerned by Normalisation of Antisemitic Tropes in Hungary
  10. Counter BalanceOut for Summer Episode 1: How the EIB Sweeps a Development Fiasco Under the Rug
  11. CESICESI to Participate in Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee on Postal Services
  12. ILGA-EuropeMalta Keeps on Rocking: Marriage Equality on Its Way

Latest News

  1. EU and Turkey fail to defuse tensions
  2. European law will apply 'for years' in the UK, says EU judge
  3. US votes to sanction EU firms in Russia project
  4. Journalists on trial highlight Turkey crackdown
  5. EU to give research tips on dual food quality
  6. Polish president's veto leaves uncertainties over next move
  7. EU Commission unmoved by Polish president's veto
  8. UK presses the Brexit pause button