The Bulgarian Foreign Ministry issued a statement condemning the decision by the Macedonian Justice Ministry to ban a Bulgarian club in Bitola from using the name “Vanco Mihajlov”. Mihajlov was leader of VMRO between the two world wars and cooperated with Croatian Nazi leader Ante Pavelic during the Second World War.

After the club was opened with great fanfare from top Buglarian state official, it caused protests from citizens in Bitola and singer Lambe Alabakovski torched the entrance of the club in protest. In the aftermath, the Macedonian Parliament adopted amendments to a law banning civic organizations from using names of people associated with the Nazi ideology, and this law is now used to demand that the club in Bitola changes its name – a request that the club organizers are rejecting.

The Foreign Ministry follows with increased concerns the events in (North) Macedonia linked with attempts to limit the right to association of Bulgarians in the country, the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry said.

Macedonia already faces a clear veto threat from Bulgaria for its EU accesion process following the brutal beating of a Bulgarian activist in Ohrid, where the “Tsar Boris III” is expected to change its name for the same reason, and the naming dispute makes the veto more likely.