By David EdendenCongressional Quaterly
This is an old article from the summer about the Macedonians in Bulgaria by the Washington based Congressional Quarterly. Good work by the United Macedonia Diaspora.
In Bulgaria, 750,000 ethnic Turks have their own political party, which scored 20 percent in the country’s European Parliament elections in May, much to the annoyance of far right nationalist groups like the Ataka party, which won 14 percent. Other minorities around the region include the Gagauz, a Turkic people in Romania and Bulgaria; the Vlachs, who speak a Romanian-type language and live in Bulgaria and Romania; and the Pomaks, ethnic Bulgarians who became Muslims during Ottoman rule.
The Macedonians in Bulgaria show just how contentious ethnic issues can be. The Bulgarian government says there are only 5,000 Macedonians living in Bulgaria, but in reality there are between 100,000 and 200,000, according to Metodija Koloski, a member of the Washington-based United Macedonian Diaspora advocacy group. The government also refuses to recognize the Macedonian language and prevents Macedonians from forming a political party or their own Orthodox Church, he contends.
Unlike ethnic Hungarians, however, the Macedonians have no one defending them. The government of neighboring Macedonia does not want to alienate Bulgaria and Greece, according to Koloski, because it needs their support to join the EU and NATO.
In November 2006, when the European Parliament was voting on whether to accept Bulgaria into the EU, the EFA proposed demanding that Bulgaria allow ethnic Macedonians to register a political party. Bulgaria had banned the Macedonians’ Umo Ilinden Pirin party because it did not have enough members.
“The amendment was rejected 303-141, but considering the fierce lobby from the Bulgarian government, 141 votes was quite a lot,” says the EFA’s Dauwen, noting that in 2006 the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Bulgaria had violated the Macedonians’ right of freedom of association and that Sofia has been dragging its heels in implementing the judgment.
But Bulgarian Ambassador to the United States Elena Poptodorova, who was born in Bulgaria’s Macedonian region, insists “these people are not Macedonians. To recognize their language would be like saying Austrian is a different language from German.” She feels the campaign is an effort by Macedonians to distance themselves from Bulgaria in order to establish their own identity.