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29 . 11 . 06 Right to self-determination
Only Macedonians can define themselves as a Minority

As the European Parliament debates Bulgaria 's preparedness for EU accession and following the debate in the Foreign Affairs Committee on the progress report of Bulgaria towards EU membership, the European Free Alliance (EFA) has emphasized that every community has the right and prerogative to define themselves as a minority if they choose.

The state of Bulgaria has no role to play in defining minorities but has an important role in recognizing and respecting these minorities in line with the ' Copenhagen criteria' on respect for human rights and democracy.

Co-President of OMO "Ilinden" Pirin, observer member of EFA, Stojko Stojkov addressed a press conference and commented:

"I call on the Bulgarian authorities to recognize, respect and protect the rights of all self-identified ethnicities and minorities within its borders, including Macedonians, Pomaks, Roma, Turks, and other minorities, and to implement all decisions of the European Court for Human Rights (ECHR). I am a Macedonian, I am a member of the Macedonian community living in Bulgaria , and I exist. The state denies my existence and that of thousands of other peaceful Macedonians."

Günther Dauwen, Director of EFA, declared:

" Bulgaria , as all member states, must respect the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights, including the one regarding the registration of OMO "Ilinden" PIRIN."

Bernat Joan i Marí added:

"It is also the right and prerogative of the organization OMO "Ilinden" Pirin to enjoy the freedom of association as the ECHR concluded last year and therefore we request the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe to oblige Bulgaria to take all necessary initiatives to register the party."

The right to self-identification is enshrined in international law (Framework Convention on National Minorities [FCNM], Art. 3). This right has individual and collective dimensions. Each person has the right to identify themselves with a minority group (or not), and each group has the right to decide whether it would like to preserve its own group identity; including customs, traditions, language and religion. It is not up to the state to decide whether a minority group exists.

We would expect Bulgaria to comply with the Copenhagen criteria as we would any other EU member state or any country aspiring to EU membership.

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