Thousands of people demonstrated in Skopje on Saturday at the call of the nationalists against a draft agreement intended to settle the historic dispute with Bulgaria which blocked the opening of negotiations for North Macedonia's accession to the European Union .
Read alsoNorth Macedonia's accession to the EU: the Bulgarian Parliament is in favor of lifting the veto
The rally was supported by the main opposition party, the nationalist right VMRO-DPMNE whose leader Hristijan Mickoski said: “
We don't need Europe if it's to be assimilated!
I don't want to be part of Europe because I have the right to be a Macedonian, speaking the Macedonian language and fighting for my identity and my culture
," he added, addressing the protesters came with Macedonian flags, banners proclaiming "
No to the EU
" or "
Partymen, don't negotiate with the fascists!"
and crying '
Since 2020, the Bulgarian position has prevented the launch of negotiations with Skopje, but also with Tirana, the two candidacies being linked by the EU.
Sofia finally lifted her veto on June 24, under certain conditions.
According to the compromise on the table, prepared under the French presidency of the EU which has just ended, Skopje must in particular undertake to modify its Constitution to include Bulgarians in the recognized ethnic groups and to "
" a 2017 friendship treaty aimed at eradicating hate speech.
North Macedonia is also called upon to review its school programs and to open the archives of the communist police supposed to show the bad treatment reserved for Bulgarians in this former Yugoslav republic.
The question of language also remains very sensitive, Sofia considering the Macedonian language as a Bulgarian dialect, while the two countries dispute over historical events and figures, mainly inherited from the Ottoman past.
The government in Skopje, whose resignation protesters have demanded, had rejected a previous French proposal in June, before indicating that it was ready to accept another.
Public consultations on its content had started without delay.
However, according to local specialists in European issues and according to the opposition, the new draft agreement does not differ much from the first.
Before that, the path leading North Macedonia to the EU had already been blocked by Greece due to a dispute over its name, which is identical to that of a region in northern Greece.
The country has been a member of NATO since 2020.