While Macedonian leaders met with the European Parliament in Strasbourg to reach an agreement after both pro- and anti-government rallies in Skopje, Bulgarian Foreign Minister Daniel Mitov said that Bulgaria wants stability in the Balkan region without ethnic and political tension.
Stressing that the European Union has a responsibility to bring calm to Macedonia, Mitov said “The mediation in the political dialogue between the separate parties is a responsibility of the European institutions, of the EU member states, as Macedonia is one of the countries willing to join the European family.”
“[Macedonia] is our neighbour and we wish to see it a member of the EU. The citizens of Macedonia deserve to have a good government, to see European reforms and adopt European practices in this country. Thus, our efforts in this direction will not stop.”
Mitov also commented on Bulgaria’s border protection, saying illegal immigration and refugee waves can be a threat for Bulgaria.
“There will be a tripartite protocol on mutual defence at the borders between Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey. We insist on fast implementation of the agreement between the EU and Turkey.
Thus, in this direction we are aware of the existing risks,” he said.
During clashes between Macedonian security forces and ethnic Albanian militants in the Macedonian city of Kumanovo last week, the Bulgarian government decided to send troops to the Macedonian border to prevent a possible flow of people from Macedonia in case of social turmoil.
The Bulgarian government also sent another troop of commandos to work with the Macedonian army to search for possible terror suspects.
At least eight police officers and 14 members of an “armed group” were killed after a day-long clash in the northern border city.
Kumanovo is one of the areas of Macedonia with a dense ethnic Albanian population, and an ethnic uprising was staged in the city in May 2001.
Albania seeks to avert interethnic conflict
Albanian President Bujar Nishani also said that “interethnic coexistence in Macedonia is a treasure,” adding “someone is interested in destabilising Macedonia, by expanding the gap of intolerance between the Albanians and Macedonians.”
“An interethnic conflict would be devastating for Macedonia. Albania has been the first to recognize Macedonia, supports its Euro-Atlantic integration, taking into account the existence of the Albanian factor as a constituent factor,” he said.
At the pro-government rally in Skopje on Monday, a number of Serbian flags were spotted in the crowd but there were no Albanian flags visible, even though ethnic Albanians in Macedonia consists of 25 percent of the society.
Macedonian leaders seek settlement
Both Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and opposition leader of Zoran Zaev were in Strasbourg to find a solution to the country’s political crisis on Tuesday, where they met with EU officials separately throughout the day.
The two leaders also met with each other, but no information was released after their meetings. It has been said that the two parties will meet again on May 26th.
Opposition leader Zoran Zaev organised a street demonstration on Sunday with thousands of people in capital city Skopje, demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski who is under fire due to wiretapping and corruption allegations which have emerged in the past several months.
Some of the demonstrators, including Zaev himself, have decided to put up tens of tents outside the parliament building. Protesters said they will not leave the “tent-camp” until Gruevski and the parliament resigns.
Supporters of Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski also gathered in the capital city of Skopje for a pro-government rally on Monday amid calls for him to resign.
Gruevski has been accused by the protesters and his opponents of wiretapping, corruption, weak policies and an ailing economy by Zaev, the leader of the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia.