North Macedonia bans organisations with names linked to fascism

North Macedonia bans organisations with names linked to fascism

North Macedonia’s parliament has adopted a law that prevents organisations and cultural clubs from using names deemed to be linked to fascism.

The bill also prohibits political parties and groups from using symbols or names of individuals directed against other religions or ethnic groups.

Existing organisations must also change their controversial names within three months or will be removed from the country's central register.

The move comes after recent protests against the legacy of a World War II monarch in neighbouring Bulgaria.

Last month, hundreds of people protested in the southern town of Ohrid after an ethnic Bulgarian association named itself after King Boris III.

The former monarch is deeply resented in North Macedonia for aligning his country with Axis powers during World War II.

Bulgarian forces accepted Nazi German demands to deport Jews in the occupied regions, but Boris III successfully resisted pressure for Bulgarian Jews to face a similar fate.

Boris III reigned from 1918 until his death in 1943, when Bulgaria also occupied parts of modern-day Greece, Romania, and North Macedonia.

Jewish community groups in North Macedonia have expressed shock at the ethnic Bulgarian organisation’s choice of name.

The two countries maintain a tense relationship after Sofia vetoed Skopje's bid to join the European Union in 2020, which has been resolved only recently.

Bulgarian veto -- which demanded that Skopje acknowledges that Macedonian is not a distinct language but a dialect of Bulgarian, among other things -- came after North Macedonia successfully resolved another veto from Greece, changing its name following the signing of the Prespa Agreement in 2018.

Bulgaria has also accused the government in North Macedonia of disrespecting shared cultural and historical ties and refusing to recognise a Bulgarian minority -- claims rejected by the government and the opposition alike.

The proposed law against fascist names in North Macedonia passed on Wednesday with 67 votes in the 120-member parliament.