Bulgarian National radio (BNR)’s correspondent to Brussels Diana Chepisheva comments on the press conference organized in Brussels by the European Free Alliance and OMO Ilinden – Pirin
Diana Chepisheva: The only MEP that attended this press conference was Bernard Juan, a Spanish MEP from Catalonia, a member of the group of the Greens in the European Parliament. Upon opning the press conference he stated he would talk on a very sensitive issue – that there is a political party in Bulgaria, OMO Ilinden, that it is directly connected to the European Free Alliance (EFA), but unfortunately it is not recognized legally in Bulgaria, and that they take this as a threat to EFA. Otherwise, Bulgaria is viewed as any other European state and that political parties should be able to take part in the political life everywhere.
Then the floor was taken by the leader of OMO Ilinden – Pirin Stoyko Stoykov. What he decided to underscore upon starting is that the party he represents is a civil and democratic one, but it has been permanently denied legal registration over the years because it was the only party in Bulgaria that defends the rights of the Macedonian minority. Stoyko Stoykov told about the way laws and rules have changed over the years, that before they needed only 50 people to register a party, then the number had grown to 5000, and later to 5,000, which in his words had violated their right of self-declaring and peaceful organization.
Then a series of suggestions followed about the real existence of a Macedonian minority in Bulgaria. And Stoyko Stoykov defined himself as its representative. He even summoned the audience to go and touch him if someone doubts his words. However, there were no people willing to do so.
Another participant in this news conference was the co-chairman of the European Free Alliance Gunther Dauwen. He said he visited Bulgaria in September and that he saw that the official representatives of Bulgaria state that there is no Macedonian minority in Bulgaria. Now, after the debates related to the report by Geoffrey Van Orden and the already well-known amendment, he find it completely clear that official Sofia is persistently defending the thesis that there is no Macedonian minority in Bulgaria. In his words, this was foolish because there is just one problem that must be solved and that the Bulgarian authorities have had the chance to solve over the last 10 years but they haven’t done so, and that is why they should not get offended now that someone stands on the side of this Macedonian minority, whose rights are neglected.
Gunther Dauwen underscored that Stoyko Stoykov is a Bulgarian: “See, he speakes Bulgarian”.
The other thing he pointed out was that Stoyko Stoykov is not a separatist.
The press conference was also attended by lawyer Yonko Grozev from the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee. He distinguished himself clearly, at the very beginning, from all possible political reminiscences. He underlined that he is there only in his quality of a representative of a party that has been denied registration, which something that the European Court on human Rights has defined as violation of the right of association. Yonko Grozev, of course, presented the well-known court decision, but did not take part in any way in the political discussion.
Another thing that I find very interesting and worthy mentioning is that being asked about the number of members of OMO Ilinden, and about the number of the Macedonians in Bulgaria, Stoyki Stoykov said that the membership list of OMO Ilinden reaches about 6,000. Referring to the number of people that define themselves as Macedonians in Bulgaria, he said the no one knows the exact number of these people and it is the government’s fault since during the latest censuses in the country it has categorically denied to give a possibility for such a type of self-definition.
Radio host: You mean that this type of ethnic origin is not included in the list of possibilities, as the options listed are Bulgarian, Turk, Roma, etc.?
Diana Chepisheva: Right. That the option Macedonian is not included. The problem according to Stoykov, originates (according to his judgment and data) from that fact that there are between 5,000 and 10,000 Macedonians, while their number had even reached 187,000 during some periods of the history of Bulgaria.
Radio host: Well, if there are between 5,000 and 10,000 macedonians, and OMO Ilinden has a membership list of 6,000 people, it turns out that more than half of them are members of OMO Ilinden, right?
Diana Chepisheva: Yes, it seems so. In the mean time it was said that it is not only Macedonians that are members of OMO Ilinden and that there were representatives of different ethnoses. However, I would like to add something more about the figure 187,000 Macedonians back in the history. Stoyko Stoykov said that he was speaking about censuses in the period 1946 – 1956. However, nothing was said of course about this part of our history that is related to the forcefully Macedonization recommended by Stalin. Anyway, this was what was stated here.
Asked whether he thinks OMO Ilinden stands the chance, if it gets registered, of overcoming the 4% barrier needed to enter the parliament, Stoykov refused to make some categorical comments and added that this is somethi9gn that must be checked in practice, and that if they cannot overcome this barrier on their own, the world has though of coalitions.
Another thing that I’d like to add is that the co-chairman of the European Free Alliance Gunther Dauwen, asked whether he knows what the ethnic conflicts have caused on the Balkans and who needs another artificial one, he answered that he knows very well the history of the Balkans and that aim of the political formation that he represents is not to cause tension and conflict. The only thing that they would oppose as a European formation is the line of official Sofia according to which there is no Macedonian minority. We are searching for solution, not tension, he stated.
The presence of media representatives was quite symbolic at this press conference. Although it was held in the main press hall of the European Parliament, it was attended by about 10 journalists, most of whom were accredited representatives of Bulgarian media here. There were also about 10 employees of the European Parliament.
Els de Groen was not present, which does not exclude the possibility that she grounds herself on this press conference and reanimate the issue again during the upcoming debate on the Geoffrey Van Orden’s report on Bulgaria before tomorrow’s vote in the plenary hall.