ANNUAL REPORT ON THE HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATION OF THE MACEDONIANS IN BULGARIA 2015
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Denial of the Existence of the Macedonian Minority, Nation and Identity
Absence of Dialogue
Violation of the Right of Association
Refusal by the Commission Against Discrimination to Protect Macedonians
The fundamental problems affecting the Macedonian minority in Bulgaria remain unchanged this year as well; namely:
1. Denial of the existence of a Macedonian minority;
2. The failure to grant to Macedonians those rights specified in the European Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities;
3. The refusal of the authorities to enter into dialogue with representatives of the Macedonian minority;
4. The refusal to register Macedonian organizations;
5. Hate speech directed against Macedonians;
6. Discrimination on ethnic grounds;
The only positive news that could be pointed to this year were the meetings held for the first time between a Macedonian organisation and two state bodies and the assurances received from one of these bodies regarding proposed changes to the Law on Registration of Non-Government Organisations which could eventually, given good will, lead to the removal of the institutional blockade regarding the registration of Macedonian organisations in Bulgaria. All that, however, continues to be something to be hoped for and in reality there is still no dialogue, nor have any organisations been registered (see below).
Denial of the Existence of the Macedonian Minority, Nation and Identity
This year official denials of the existence of a Macedonian minority by state institutions were not observed. That however does not indicate the presence of a change in the official polices of the state. It is a fact that not one statement was made indicating the existence of a Macedonian minority, nor was there even a hint that such denial would stop. Given that in reality all official state bodies (courts at all levels, the Government, Parliament, President) have officially and on numerous occasions from 1963 to the present (the last official statement in that regard was from 2014) , denied the existence of a Macedonian minority and the fact that not even one statement to the contrary was made, one can not speak of any concrete change in this regard. That silence was due to the lack of political interest in the matter of the Macedonian minority throughout the year and the circumstance that such similar statements of denial in the international arena have in the past resulted in pressure from outside for the removal of discrimination, which has led to the authorities being more careful in their pronouncements.
Discrimination continued unchanged as state institutions preferred to base such discrimination on motives generally considered “more acceptable”. However, the end result was the same- this year as well there was no recognition of the minority and not one registration of a Macedonian organization.
A clear demonstration of the continuing official policy of denial of the existence of a Macedonian minority is the delay in the negotiations on the signing of the Treaty on Good Neighbourliness with Macedonia, in which Bulgaria insists there be a clause whereby Macedonia renounces its right to defend those persons with a Macedonian identity. Despite the opposition of Macedonia and the delay in the negotiations, Bulgaria has not dropped this anti-democratic demand and has instead converted it into a condition for entering into such a treaty and Bulgarian agreement to not block Macedonia’s integration into European structures. The way in which the Macedonian minority is described in the negotiations also serves as proof of its denial. A symptom of the continuation of the same policy of denial of the very Macedonian nation are the changes in the Law on Bulgarian Citizenship which have been made with the clear goal of granting Bulgarian citizenship to Macedonian citizens who are automatically considered to be Bulgarians. One of the chief ideologues of these changes, Bozhidar Dimitrov, openly states that the goal is for Macedonia to remain outside of the European Union (EU), but for Macedonians to be integrated into the EU on the condition that they declare themselves to be Bulgarians. In this way each Macedonian who refuses to identify as a Bulgarian will remain outside Europe with all the negative consequences that this entails.
This year as well there was no representative of the Macedonian minority on the National Council on Ethnic and Integration Issues which is part of the Ministerial Council. The public denial of the existence of a Macedonian minority or the use of hate speech did not on any occasion result in a reaction or investigation by any state body.
Bulgarian policy towards the Macedonians and Macedonia is generally expressed in the following way: 1. Non-recognition of the Macedonian minority in Bulgaria and the non-granting of rights in accordance with the Framework Convention. 2. Specific blocking of Macedonia’s integration into European structures. 3. Blackmailing the Macedonian government into renouncing its right to advocate for the rights of the Macedonians in Bulgaria. 4. Facilitated granting of Bulgarian citizenship to Macedonian citizens facing economic difficulties under the condition that they renounce their ethnic identity and declare themselves to be Bulgarians.
Outside the framework of state institutions, the denial of the existence of the Macedonian minority and its very identity continues unchanged. This denial often occurs in the media and is not considered as hate speech or something that deserves censure, but rather as acceptable defence of the historical truth and a display of patriotism. During the year this was carried out in mass media such as “24 Chasa” by persons with considerable influence in society such as the former Speaker of Parliament and ambassador to Macedonia, Aleksander Yordanov, and the former minister and director of the National Museum, Bozhidar Dimitrov. The denials were directed not only at the Macedonian minority (which both have done on numerous occasions in the past), but also against the whole Macedonian nation and the very idea of a Macedonian identity. The same views were expressed at various levels- in the media, on the Internet, in blogs and even in course work in the educational system.
A flagrant expression of such continuing denial is the use of the concepts “Macedonianism” and “Macedonists” to denote the idea of the existence of a Macedonian nation and the self-determination of an individual as a Macedonian, instead of “Macedonians, Macedonian nation, Macedonian minority” These concepts contain within themselves the idea that such a nation and minority do not exist, that they represent something artificial and are a form of (anti-Bulgarian) ideology.
The very use of concepts such as “Macedonianism” and “Macedonists” occurs despite the express disagreement of Macedonians with the use of these concepts, which are taken by them to be offensive and in essence represent not only a denial of the nation and minority, but also hate speech. Those who use them also always imbue them with a negative content and interpret “Macedonianism” (that is, Macedonian self-determination) as an anti-Bulgarian phenomenon. Such incidences of hate speech are so numerous in the media and on the Internet that not all of them can be traced and described.
Typical of this practice this year were the attempts to use the Ukrainian crisis in order to draw an analogy with Macedonia and the Macedonians, however not in the sense of instability, but in the sense of the “artificiality” of both nations and their languages and cultures. On 9 February 2015 an article was published which was subsequently republished in a series of Internet media: “Ukrainianism is Macedonianism Squared”. In this article it was alleged that both are artificial and even anti-nations (anti-Bulgarian and anti-Russian) and in the text it was stated that “the soul of those “isms” is hatred”. On 12/2/205 Bozhidar Dimitrov on “24 Chasa” stated that “Bulgaria borders everywhere with itself… the case of Macedonia is 100% analogous to the creation of Ukraine- invented nation, invented language…” . On 14 May, in the newspaper “Zemya”, he repeated this same view: “Ukraine… is also an artificial product. It is the Russian Macedonia”.
In the same interview Dimitrov stated:” The idea of the Macedonian state and nation is an artificial product dating from the end of the nineteenth century… the Macedonian idea was implemented as a state idea at the expense of an unheard of and permanent repression of the Bulgarian population in Macedonia… the false doctrine on which the state is based- Macedonianism. It is 100% invented and false and a nation can not live founded on a lie…The father of Macedonianism is the Comintern.”
On 25 May the former President of the People’s Assembly and Bulgarian ambassador in Skopje, Aleksander Yordanov, stated as follows for “24 Chasa”: “the birth place of the doctrine of Macedonianism is Moscow… the doctrine of Macedonianism ,which is anti-Bulgarianism in perpetual motion…. Macedonianism is an ideology of separation and that makes it in and of itself anti-European “ . In the same interview he suggested that the Macedonians in Macedonia are Bulgarians and made an obvious effort to exploit the anti-Russian disposition against Macedonians in the country.
That generally negative view of Macedonian identity is automatically conveyed to those who disseminate such views in Bulgaria.
On 12 May the newspaper “Svobodno Slovo” published material which affirmed the myth of “forced Macedonianisation” in Bulgaria in 1946. The goal of this completely officially-sanctioned myth was to explain away the existence of people with a Macedonian consciousness in Bulgaria in an extremely racist fashion; namely, that they are the product of a social experiment and not something natural. In doing so, one of the unpleasant facts for the deniers of Macedonian identity, namely, the declaration of 187,000 citizens as Macedonians at the only censuses at which that was able to be done freely (1946-56), was done away with. The repetition of that myth inculcates a negative disposition towards people with a Macedonian self-consciousness and leads to it being viewed as the product of an experiment, violence and even as a crime. That is also apparent from the way in which this topic was treated by other media. Traffic News (TNS) published material with the typical title “The violent Macedonianization of Pirin Macedonia- one of the biggest crimes in our history”, while the cultural autonomy which existed for less than a year in Pirin Macedonia was called “denationalization”. The same “explanation” is used in regard to the appearance of the Macedonian nation in general and especially in regard to Macedonian self-determination on the territory of the Republic of Macedonia; the “crime which is Macedonia” gave birth to the ideology of Macedonianism and macedonianised Bulgarians by force. Some persons, carried away by the extremely negative attitude towards “Macedonianism” went so far as to foresee the “demise of Macedonianism”.
It is not known whether any institutions of the state investigated these and similar occurrences.
Hate Speech in the Educational System
This hate-generating mythology has also permeated the educational system which has become one of its main sources.
The Macedonian minority is not mentioned in history text books used in the Bulgarian educational system and everything Macedonian is presented as being Bulgarian.
This nationalist indoctrination through the educational system is reflected in the course work produced by students. A clear illustration of the above is the course work entitled “Macedonianism - Appearance and Development”.
Absence of Dialogue
The beginning of a dialogue by the Bulgarian authorities with Macedonian organizations is a frequent recommendation in the reports issued by international institutions such as the European Commission Against Racism and Discrimination, the Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, independent observers of the UN and the Commission on Human Rights.
The Bulgarian authorities, however, have to date not made any effort to establish a suitable relationship and begin of any sort of dialogue.
The numerous initiatives of Macedonian organizations for the beginning of dialogue were either rejected or remained unanswered. According to the information at our disposal, this year meetings were requested with the following Bulgarian institutions: Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, the Minister for Education, Todor Tanev, Minister for Justice, Hristo Ivanov, the Secretariat of the National Council for Cooperation on Ethnic and Integration Issues within the Ministerial Council, the Commission for Protection from Discrimination. Due to the total lack of any reaction from the president’s office in the past, this year no request was made for a meeting with the President. No answers were received from the Ministry for Education and the National Council on Ethnic Issues. The Prime Minister’s office sent a note indicting that the letter had been received and added to previous requests for a meeting, however it did not address the concrete request for a meeting.
Surprisingly, this time two bodies replied affirmatively to the requests for meetings.
The Ministry of Justice agreed to a meeting with Deputy Minister Petko Petkov, while the Commission for the Protection from Discrimination organized a meeting with its Regional Coordinator for the Blagoevgrad District.
The above meetings were duly held. On 19 October two co-presidents of OMO “Ilinden”-PIRIN” held a meeting with the district coordinator of the Commission for the Blagoevgrad District. At that meeting the following observations were made:
As far as the coordinator was aware, the Commission has to date not investigated any cases of discrimination against Macedonians; he was unaware of any case where the Commission had decided in favour of a Macedonian who had been discriminated against and the matter of problems related to discrimination against Macedonians had not been included in the annual reports and recommendations of the Commission. Our checks did not reveal anything which could refute the abovementioned observations and despite the fact that there were cases of complaints having been made to this Commission, not one of them had been decided positively (see below and our report for 2014). Given that there have been 8 verdicts brought down against the Republic of Bulgaria in Strasbourg and the numerous criticisms and recommendations contained in different international reports on the situation of the Macedonian minority, such conduct by the Commission poses serious questions regarding its activities and objectivity. Apart from that it turned out that the commission had avoided launching investigations not only in connection with the Macedonian minority, but on the basis of principle, which greatly hinders the struggle against discrimination in the country.
Many documents were handed over and a meeting was requested with the President of the Commission, however to date no response has been received in regard to this matter.
The meeting with Deputy Minister Petkov was held on 26 October 2015. The Deputy Minister informed the representatives of OMO “Ilinden”-PIRIN about the imminent introduction into Parliament of a draft of the Law on Amending and Complementing the Law on Non-Profit Entities, by virtue of which the registration of Macedonian organisations would be facilitated so as to remove the intensified monitoring of the Republic of Bulgaria by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. The Macedonian representatives, while welcoming this initiative and the proposed changes, as well as the fact that a meeting was held, expressed certain fears; namely, that the reasons for refusal of registration have to date not been spelled out in the law and remained grounded in a policy of discrimination and that the new procedure, in and of itself, would not guarantee resolution of the matter.
Even though the meetings held represented a positive step, it is still early to speak of the beginning of a dialogue. One of the meetings (with the Commission) was held at the lowest level and was not followed up on either in writing or through the organizing of further meetings. The other meeting, on the other hand, was merely a one-off informative meeting. Given the refusal of other state institutions to meet and the absence of any initiative for such meetings on the part of the authorities, together with their solitary nature, we are compelled for the present to conclude that real dialogue between the Bulgarian authorities and the Macedonians in Bulgaria still does not exist.
Violation of the Right of Association
During 2015 not one Macedonian organization obtained registration. During this year there were four cases awaiting registration before the courts. Two of these were refused and two have not received any reply.
OMO “Ilinden” and the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights “Tolerance” (Tolerantnost), which were denied registration by the Blagoevgrad Regional Court in 2014 (see our report for 2014), were also denied registration, after a one year delay, by the Sofia Appeals Court. A characteristic of these verdicts was that even though the court proceedings took place a long time ago - 2 December 2014 and 8 February 2015- official decisions were handed down only at the end of 2015.
A new feature of the verdicts of the Sofia Appeals Court was that this time the matter of the Macedonian minority was carefully circumvented, even though this matter was one of the main topics discussed during the proceedings, as can be seen from a comparison of the text of the decisions with the dissenting opinions issued regarding them. Even though the decisions were inspired by ethnic bias and were intended to limit the rights of people with a Macedonian consciousness, in contrast to earlier decisions, the Sofia Appeals Court avoided displaying these attitudes in its decisions. We believe that this was done deliberately, as the texts of previous decisions of the same court were used on several occasions in our reports to illustrate discrimination on an ethnic basis against the Macedonian minority in Bulgaria. Instead of an open admission of the real reasons, the court on this occasion employed formal statements or arguments which have been previously condemned by the European Court of Human Rights (see Stankov and others vs Bulgaria ).
Decision ¹ 2272 of 18th November which denied the appeal of OMO “Ilinden”.
The Court was guided by an intention to not make its assessment solely on the basis of documents submitted, given that it had not accepted the declared goals, tasks and methods of the association as being its real and final ones. Throughout the whole document there is a constant repetition of the statement regarding the “real goals” that are being pursued, which differ from those that are publicly proclaimed, and which the Court claims to have discovered by also including in its assessment the activities of the founders of the association both before its founding and outside of it, as well as what it terms “commonly known matters”. This, under Bulgarian conditions, means the use of traditional hate speech against Macedonians as a factual basis for denying the registration of a Macedonian association, given that the following matters are included under such “commonly known matters” in connection with the Macedonians in Bulgaria: namely, that they are traitors, apostates, agents of foreign intelligence agencies, separatists and anti-Bulgarians. These actions of the Court, which do not apply to any other associations, were justified on the basis that “the law needs to be applied equally to everyone” as well as to protect “the rights of all citizens and legal entities without exception”. The Court in reality acted as a defender of the rights of “others” from the danger, which in their view is posed by the association. Consequently, the goals of the association’s programme as indicated in its Statutes were not considered as its final goals and instead an attempt was made to discover "its general sense and reason, and in making such an assessment it follows completely that the revelation of the actual general will of the founders regarding the purposes and methods of the association, respectively be sought; that is – the presumed activities to be carried out as designated by its founders after its registration"; and "in opposition to the right to freedom of association claimed by the appellants there exists an obligation on the part of the state and, consequently the court, to maintain the necessary balance between the exercise of the individual rights of the applicants and the rights of other legal entities, together with the state's obligation to ensure the maintenance of public order, national security and the security of its citizens."
In rejecting registration, the Court based its decision on the following considerations: 1. The provocative statements and behaviour of the applicants vis-a-vis the state and people with differing views would lead to clashes and as “a consequence actual violations of public order." In reality, such violations were carried out against the founders of the association and this is the reason why they sued the state in the European Court of Human Rights (Stankov and others). 2. The declaration that everyone has the opportunity to become a member was said to be merely a formal statement and invalid (the argument used for this finding was that the association aims to defend the Macedonians and consequently people of another ethnicity would not be able to become members). 3. The Court justified its discrimination by even pointing out that Bulgaria is a member of the European Union and that the latter finds itself in a difficult situation due to the emigration crisis. Guided as it was by the above reasoning, the Court pointed to two reasons for denying registration:
1. The association may create social tension due to the heightened sensibility of the population. In the current international situation such a danger, deemed to be "hypothetical, yet according to the Court also actually existing at present" must be prevented through the refusal of registration.
2. The registration would violate the rights and legitimate interests of "the remaining Bulgarian citizens." This was the case as citizens have the right to believe that they are citizens of a European country in which the discriminatory practices which are claimed to occur by the association do not take place.
On the basis of these hypothetical problems that could arise in the future, the Court deemed that this association should not be granted any registration whatsoever, rather than subsequently facing the choice of having to withdraw registration, as provided for by the law, in the event that there were hypothetical and eventual violations which would have to be sanctioned. Non-registration according to the Court is a preventative measure to protect public order and the rights of the citizens of Bulgaria.
The Court circumvented the basic problem of the "Macedonian minority" by employing the typical argument that as there is no definition of the concept of national minority, there was no point at all in discussing whether such a Macedonian minority exits.
Decision ¹ 1803 of 08 November 2015 of the Sofia Appellate Court Against the Committee for the Defence of Rights “Tolerance”.
The Court found no serious motive for the ban. Consciously avoiding the true motive-the Macedonian minority (that it was a basic motive is clear from the dissenting opinion) it attempted to justify its decision by pointing to violations of a formal nature, but it managed to indicate only two, one of which is invalid, and the other without legal effect. Three of the individuals were identified not only by their names but also by their ID card numbers, yet as they had not submitted their Individual Citizen Numbers, the Court found that they could not be concretely identified, which is directly and objectively false, since it is by virtue of the number of the identity card that this can in the main be arrived at. Furthermore, part of an article (No 23) of the Statute did not meet lawful requirements. Although the same part appears to be legally null and void and would not lead to any legal or other consequences or violations and despite the fact that there are registered NGOs in whose statutes the same text appears, the court determined that it was sufficient reason for registration to be refused.
In regard to both objections the Court if it so wished could have requested that amendments be made, which was not done at either the court of first or second instance and the court of first instance did not in any case note the "violations" referred to by the court of second instance. However, both courts justified their decisions with one and the same general, formal and essentially false statements: namely, "The Court shares the findings of the Trial Court that the objectives and tasks have not been outlined in a way so as to establish the socially beneficial nature of the activities of the association”
The dubious nature of the reasoning adopted by the Court in both cases is evident from the fact that both decisions were adopted accompanied by a dissenting opinion. This opinion categorically rejected the reasoning of the other judicial colleagues and supported the view that the associations meet all the conditions set out and therefore should be registered. The refusal to register was deemed to be unjustified, disproportionate and unnecessary in a democratic society.
Protraction of Cases
Two other organisations - "The Macedonian Club for Ethnic Tolerance and Preservation of Macedonian Folklore, Traditions and Customs" and "Makedon Suringrad - Association for the Preservation and Study of Cultural and Historical Heritage" which submitted applications for registration in 2014, have not received decisions for more than one year. They are being treated in the same way that the Committee for the Defence of Rights "Tolerance" was treated last year- they have been subjected to intentional delays, objections lacking in substance and the return of applications. According to the opinion of the lawyer for these two associations, Velichka Atanasova, from October 2015:
"To date we have not officially received a refusal, the documents are still being considered…. However, my monitoring of the refusals that have been received indicates that usually the refusal consists of some sort of formal reasoning such as, for example, that the goals indicated and the sphere of activities are not precisely and clearly formulated and as such the court was unable to arrive at a justified conclusion as to whether those activities and goals do not contradict the law and decent moral norms. It is precisely here at this point that one must turn one’s attention to the fact that the reasons for refusals should be clearly and accurately set out with concrete arguments advanced. "
The lawyer has been summoned by the court four times and asked meaningless questions so that the Court could seek out a reason for refusing registration.
That is one of the most serious problems when attempts are made to register Macedonian organizations in Bulgaria. The Court does not treat them as it does other organisations - namely to verify whether they meet the requirements of the law, but rather examines applications with the express predetermined goal of refusing registration - and all remaining procedures relate to the seeking out of a motive and reason for refusing the application. In that sense, any returns of applications for "corrections" are never intended to correct actually existing errors in order to allow registration, but represent an attempt to find a reason for delaying or rejecting an application. All attempts to register an organization to date have been characterised by such procedures.
Planned Changes to the Law in Order to Facilitate the Registration of Organizations
In 2015, amendments to the Law on Legal Entities with Non-Profit Goals, which provide for registration to occur on the same basis as companies and at the Agency for Registration instead of before the regional courts, were discussed in the public domain. In a conversation with representatives of OMO "Ilinden" PIRIN, Deputy Minister for Culture, Petko Petkov, stated that these changes were being made for all citizens, but particularly in connection with the enhanced monitoring that Bulgaria has been subjected to by the Committee of Ministers due to the non-registration of Macedonian organizations.
The draft law was approved by the Ministry on 14 November 2014 and on 7 October 2015 was submitted to Parliament. By the end of 2015, the law had not yet been voted on in Parliament.
While it is commendable that some changes are being made, and especially that for the first time in half a century representatives of the Macedonian minority have been welcomed into a Bulgarian ministry, serious reservations still exist about the proposed solution.
The problem of non-registration of Macedonian organisations is not product of the existing law, neither of weakness or defects in the law, so making change in it will not guarantee a solution. The problem lies in the misuse of the existing law against Macedonian organisations, whereby the law itself is interpreted in a completely illegal, unconstitutional and discriminatory manner. The nationalistic treatment of the Macedonian minority as a threat to national security and the unity of the nation, as well as the practice of deliberate discrimination, rather than the law itself, is that which is preventing the registration of Macedonian organisations. Failure to register Macedonian organisations forms part of discrimination on ethnic grounds in Bulgaria against the Macedonians, rather than reflecting deficiencies in the law.
Given this situation, the amendment of the law is merely of a cosmetic nature as in the event of a refusal to register the decision is once again appealed against in Court, i.e. it reverts to the same starting point at which it is currently located.
However, there is some hope that the Republic of Bulgaria by means of this change is seeking a way to stop the violation of the right of association of the Macedonians, however without recognising that such violation was ethnically motivated. Blame is cast on the imperfections in the existing law and the state absolves itself of the charge of intentional and deliberate discrimination. The Macedonian organizations would not have anything against allowing the state to extract itself with honour from the discriminatory swamp in which it remains bogged down. Unfortunately, they do not believe that the state intends to stop such discrimination.
The dominant view among Macedonian activists in Bulgaria is that in this case traditional state policy towards Macedonians is being implemented; namely, cosmetic changes which aim to satisfy and eliminate the external pressure being applied without actually stopping discrimination against the Macedonians. Or in the case that the pressure continues and remains strong - to relent on the issue of the registration of Macedonian organizations, however without changing the general policy of denial of and discrimination against the minority.
Refusal by the Commission Against Discrimination to Protect Macedonians
The Commission Against Discrimination has not in recent years initiated an investigation into a single case of discrimination against Macedonians in Bulgaria. To date it has not done so in either its annual reports or recommendations to the government and other institutions of the state. The Commission did not deal with discrimination against Macedonians, despite a series of judgments by the ECHR and the recommendations contained in various international reports.
To date, not only has it has not referred itself or initiated investigations into a single case of discrimination against Macedonians, but has rather refused to provide protection against discrimination, even in those cases where it had was referred from individuals.
The Tapanska Case
On 4 August 2015 the Commission for Protection Against Discrimination rejected the appeals of Yanka Tapanska – who had been discriminated against in her workplace because of her ethnicity (Macedonian). The Commission refused to comment on the issue of denial of justice which Tapanska encountered at the hands of the Prosecutor’s Office and the court which examined her case. The Commission justified its action by referring to the supposed independence of the judiciary and considered this to be sufficient reason for not expressing a view regarding the particular verdicts, actions and inactions of the Court and Prosecution. Tapanska’s appeal regarding discrimination in the workplace was again rejected because it had not been proven who had written the offensive notes in which she was called a "traitor" at her workplace in the Ministry for Internal Affairs and because she herself has not submitted proof. At the same time, the Commission rejected Tapanska’s requests that action be taken to collect proofs that the said discrimination occurred. In its decision the Commission even used complete untruths such as that the employer removed the discriminatory note after he had been made aware of it, whereas he had in fact refused to pay any attention to the matter and Tapanska had removed the note herself. The employer only responded afterwards and insisted that she hand over proof of the note (there is more information about this case in the 2014 report). The commission used these grounds to discontinue proceedings in her case, did not examine one of the complaints and ignored the other. The Commission, on the other hand, established that in her case there had been no violation of the Law on Protection from Discrimination by her employer and colleagues.
Tapanska appealed the decision but her appeal was dismissed pursuant to the decision taken on 15/10/2015 by the Administrative Court in Blagoevgrad presided over by Maria Todorova, by virtue of which it was deemed that it was not clear whether her appeal referred to part or all of the Commission’s decision.
The decision of the Commission Against Discrimination represents yet another refusal by a Bulgarian institution to protect Yanka Tapanska who was not only insulted publicly in her workplace - a police institution-because of her Macedonian identity, but also fired shortly thereafter by the same institution despite being an invalid and the legal prohibition against the dismissal of such people.
Correspondence with the Commission
The only positive sign this year is the meeting which took place with the regional representative of the Commission in Blagoevgrad on 19 October 2015. At that meeting, numerous documents displaying the existence of discrimination on ethnic grounds against Macedonians in Bulgaria were handed over. So far, there has been no response in relation to the documentation submitted. A meeting has been requested with the President of the Commission, however to date no such meeting has been held, nor has there been a response in this regard, which can be interpreted as a tacit refusal to meet.
On 20 November 2015, more than a month after the Commission had not responded in relation to the documents submitted earlier, several Macedonian organizations sent a note reminding the Commission about this omission. On 4th January 2016, the Commission replied that the reminder note had not fulfilled all the necessary conditions and that if it was not corrected within two weeks the proceedings initiated would be terminated. Therefore, instead of initiating an investigation of its own accord on the basis of the numerous documents submitted, the Commission sought a way to put an end to the proceedings. The note was resubmitted after all necessary and requested amendments had been made, however at the time that this report was finalised no response had been received.
Yet in 2015, discrimination against the Macedonian minority in Bulgaria continues on without any change in the situation. It continues to be denied, subjected to unpunished hate speech, deprived of the rights provided for in the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, and does not have the opportunity to exercise its right to peaceful assembly.
Discrimination against members of this minority is too organized, comprehensive, continuous and unprovoked for it to be explained away as due to a prevailing atmosphere of ethnic intolerance. It is the product of an organised, determined policy conducted by the state on many levels. The coordinated actions of the State Agency for National Security (SANS), certain social forces, institutions and the media show that we are being confronted by an organised policy. To date virtually all authorities in Bulgaria have spoken negatively of the minority. Long experience with discrimination against Macedonians has led all Macedonian activists, without exception, to form the general view that that the coordinating centre for such activities is located within SANS, and it is the direct successor of the Third Section of the Sixth Directorate of the totalitarian Agency for State Security, which dealt with combating "pro-Macedonian nationalism." This can be inferred from the continuity of personnel within this agency and the methods employed to organise the policy of discrimination, as well as the affiliation with such services of some of the main actors and exponents of this policy in the public domain, such as the leader of VMRO BND Krassimir Karakachanov, Bozhidar Dimitrov, Krassimir Uzunov (FOCUS News Agency) and others. Insofar as such a policy continues, it will be difficult to achieve serious progress in protecting the rights of Macedonians in Bulgaria.
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