Friday

19th Oct 2018

Marital row turns into dispute between Skopje and Sofia

A marital dispute between a Macedonian woman, holding Bulgarian citizenship, and her ex-husband is evolving into an international issue. The contestants: Macedonia, former Yugoslav republic turned aspiring EU-member, and member-of-the-club Bulgaria.

At first glance, the issue is the usual battle for custody among divorcees: A provincial court in Macedonia has stripped 25-year-old Spaska Mitrova of custody of her three year-old daughter and awarded it to the child's father, Voijslav Savic. The verdict ended a three-year legal saga, which included a three-month imprisonment of Ms Mitrova last year. Macedonia jailed her for not granting her ex-husband sufficient access to their daughter.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

In the eyes of many Bulgarians, the case shows that Macedonian justice is politically biased. In April 2009, Ms Mitrova obtained Bulgarian citizenship, thereby emphasizing her Bulgarian roots. The Macedonian court decision is seen as a nationalistically motivated punishment for this step.

Macedonia's ambassador Alexander Vasilevski has been summoned to the foreign ministry in Sofia and was handed a protest against what Bulgaria saw as a non-transparent and unfair trial in Mitrova's case on March 11 in the northern town of Gevgelija.

Macedonia, by contrast, is bent on appeasement, saying a civil case must not be blown up into an international dispute. In a note issued after Ms Mitrova was imprisoned last year, the Macedonian Foreign Ministry tried to calm tensions: The two countries should not allow themselves to be taken hostage by individuals trying to resolve their family misunderstandings, it stated.

Undisturbed by this appeal for peace, Bulgaria's 17 deputies in the European Parliament unanimously decided to take the issue to the EU's enlargement chief, Commissioner Stefan Fuele. EU candidate Macedonia, they charged, failed to meet a key precondition for joining the EU: the setting up an independent and fair judiciary respectful of human rights.

The contested custody case was seen behind closed doors despite Bulgaria's insistence to have its representatives monitoring the proceedings. The Gevgelija court motives were not published in due course either. Ms Mitrova said she would appeal before a higher court in Skopje. She has also complained about physical harassment and threats by her ex-husband and his family .

"The trial was held in a very negative public atmosphere including acts of physical violence and long detention (of Mitrova)", Bulgaria's foreign ministry spokeswoman Vesela Cherneva said. "We don't accept Bulgarian embassy representatives being continuously barred from attending the trial."

Bulgaria and Macedonia have long had an acrimonious relationship. It stems from colliding interpretations of their common history, although Sofia was the first to recognize its tiny neighbour when it split from the former Yugoslavia in 1992.

Most ordinary Bulgarians consider Macedonians their kinsmen and refuse to acknowledge the existence of an autonomous Macedonian nation and language, dismissing Skopje's official line on the country's identity. Nationals of the two countries understand each other without translation.

Macedonia in turn insists Bulgaria should recognise a Macedonian minority in its southwest, a demand rejected as preposterous by Sofia. The Bulgarian constitution does not allow for national minorities. The EU Parliament has adopted repeated resolutions urging Skopje to keep good neighbourly relations and avoid "hate speech."

The spat comes as Macedonia is hoping EU member states will give the green light to accession talks, which are supported by the EU's executive Commission and the European Parliament but blocked by Greece. Athens insist Macedonia must first change its name, seen by the Greeks as a claim on northern province, also called „Macedonia".

Europe and Asia seek stable relations in troubled times

Covering two-third of the world's economic output and governing more than half of the world's population, the Europe and Asian leaders' summit in Brussels on Friday tests potentials for outlining a post-Trump world order.

Asylum reforms derailed, as EU looks to north Africa

EU leaders at the summit in Brussels want partnerships with north African states that go beyond migration. But internal EU reforms on asylum, especially sharing of migrants and refugees between member states, remain stuck.

EU leaders worried about Italy's budget

Some EU leaders warned that Italy's plan to boost its budget spending despite the second largest debt in the eurozone, could hamper efforts to reform the single currency's framework.

Russian activist warning on 'fake news' as EU backs action

In 2015, internet activist Lyudmila Savchuk went under cover to expose a troll factory in St Petersburg. As the EU summit endorses anti-disinformation action, she told EUobserver the Russian government is bankrolling many more.

News in Brief

  1. Rutte: summit was 'not the moment' for higher climate ambition
  2. Legal text for Brexit relocation EU agencies agreed
  3. Greek foreign minister resigns over Macedonia deal
  4. No Brexit backstop means no approval, says EU parliament
  5. Poland questions supremacy of EU court
  6. Medvedev to meet Juncker and Merkel in Brussels
  7. Italians and Czechs least favourable to remaining in EU
  8. Facebook hack set to be first major test of EU data rules

Europe and Asia seek stable relations in troubled times

Covering two-third of the world's economic output and governing more than half of the world's population, the Europe and Asian leaders' summit in Brussels on Friday tests potentials for outlining a post-Trump world order.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  3. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  5. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  6. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  7. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  8. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  9. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  11. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  12. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All

Latest News

  1. Europe and Asia seek stable relations in troubled times
  2. Asylum reforms derailed, as EU looks to north Africa
  3. EU leaders worried about Italy's budget
  4. Russian activist warning on 'fake news' as EU backs action
  5. Kaczynski: No question of Polish EU exit
  6. EU summit to accept urgency of climate action – but no measures planned
  7. MEPs demand more from EU on human rights in Asia
  8. EU migration solutions are on the table - let's adopt them

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  2. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  4. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  6. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  8. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  9. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  11. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  12. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us