Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nikolay Milkov told reporters that his country will not give up protecting the rights of its community in North Macedonia.
“Bulgaria strongly urges that the perpetrators of this act and other similar acts be punished with the severity of the law, so that this atmosphere of impunity, which generates new and renewed violence, ends,” Milkov said.
North Macedonia’s foreign minister Bujar Osmani said his country “will do everything possible to ensure that there is no tolerance for violence in response to any problems, especially the inter-ethnic ones.”
He added that his government will not allow anyone to offend the Bulgarian community there and stressed the need to break the cycle of provocations and violence on both sides.
Responding to a question about the three perpetrators of the attack, Osmani said they have been identified, one of them has been detained for 30 days and will face trial, while the other two are still at large.
The incident comes just weeks after Bulgaria requested that the prosecution of hate crimes against ethnic Bulgarians in North Macedonia be included in EU accession negotiations.
Sofia’s request followed the attacks on two Bulgarian cultural centers in North Macedonia, including the one in Ohrid.
Last month, the two neighboring countries in the Balkans agreed to avoid bilateral tensions, including hate speech and discrimination, which they say are caused by third countries.
Although Russia was not mentioned, the permanent instability in the region is widely believed to play into the Kremlin’s hands.
Relations between Bulgaria and North Macedonia are poor, largely due to disagreements over regional history and culture that led Bulgaria to block its neighbor’s bid to join the European Union for a long time.
Bulgaria lifted its veto last July, allowing North Macedonia to begin accession negotiations with the EU, under terms negotiated by the EU, including including Bulgarians as a national ethnicity, along with Albanians, Turks and others, in the Macedonian constitution.