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Violent protests erupted this week in North Macedonia over the government’s decision to approve a series of concessions on ethnic rights as part of the European Union accession talks, Al Jazeera reported Wednesday.
Officials said that at least 11 protesters were arrested, 47 police officers were injured and a number of government buildings were damaged during Tuesday’s clashes.
The unrest erupted after the nationalist opposition party VMRO-DPMNE called for protests against concessions to neighboring Bulgaria amid the EU accession process.
EU member Bulgaria had blocked the start of negotiations for more than two years, insisting that North Macedonia must formally recognize that its language has Bulgarian roots, acknowledge the Bulgarian minority in the country and quash “hate speech” against Bulgaria, according to Radio Free Europe.
The two Balkan neighbors reached a compromise following a French-backed proposal that would require North Macedonia to acknowledge in its constitution the existence of an ethnic Bulgarian minority.
North Macedonia’s government supported the proposal but the VMRO-DPMNE and other right-wing groups rejected the plan as the “legalization of the assimilation of the Macedonian people.”
For 17 years, North Macedonia has been a candidate for EU membership. The nation was given the go-ahead to begin accession discussions in 2020 but no date was set.
In 2018, the country changed its name from “Macedonia” to “North Macedonia” to win Greece’s backing for EU membership. Greece had objected to its prior name.