New Diplomatic Row over Arrest in Macedonia

Macedonia has publicly denounced calls from the Bulgarian government for the release of Spaska Mitrova, a Macedonian that also holds Bulgarian citizenship. Mitrova was sentenced to three months in jail for obstruction to justice. She is accused of violating a court decision on her divorce with a Serbian citizen.

Her 2-year old girl was taken from her and is held in an unknown location by the Macedonian social services. The information about the details of this case is really scarce.

Personally I fail to understand the stance of the Macedonian government. Bulgaria is a member state of the European Union, while Macedonia is still a candidate country. Spaska Mitrova is a European citizen and her mistreatment shall not support the Macedonian candidacy for membership, to say the least.

8 responses to “New Diplomatic Row over Arrest in Macedonia

  1. Pingback: New Diplomatic Row over Arrest in Macedonia « European Union Law- News

  2. Vihar, my question for you as a graduate of Law and a student of European Studies is whether it is common practice in European countries to put mothers in jail and their young children in social care for violating a court decision of this type (the court ordered that she allow her former husband visit the child in her home)? Furthermore, since the home is not owned by her but by her parents and she is a guest in the home in a sence, is it common practice for a court to require that one must give access to another into a home which he or she does not own or rent? I am curious to know how common it is for women to end up in jail for not allowing their former husbands into their home (or someone else’s home) in Bulgaria and other European countries. Thank you very much for any info on the matter.

  3. Вихър Георгиев

    Teodora,

    As I said in the post, I don’t have sufficient information on this case. However, this sentence appears to be unproportional. And I am personally worried about the child, since any separation from the close relatives is a huge shock for a two-year-old (we do not know whether the child is, actually).

    This is a regrettable incident, and it should be resolved quickly.

  4. This has nothing to do with her having a Bulgarian citizenship.

    Are you a father? If you aren’t, imagine for a second that you are… Now imagine that your ex-wife doesn’t allow you to see your kid even after the court has warned her several times that she is obliged to under law.

    As she doesn’t comply with the court, she is of course BREAKING THE LAW. And guess what, people get fined or go to jail for breaking the law in Macedonia. How about Bulgaria?

    Two months in jail is not a disproportional punishment as the father had full rights to see the child and she infringed on his rights. It’s not just her child, it’s his too.

    Anyway, here is where it gets interesting… Seeing that the court was serious and did arrest her (after several warnings), she thinks, hmmm…how can I get out of this? And of course, she contacts the Bulgarian embassy and causes an international incident where there wasn’t one. The populist and trigger-happy Bulgarian nationalists are rubbing their hands in delight and make a national hero out of her, writing petitions to Amnesty International and seriously damaging the relations between the two countries.

    To add insult to injury, a couple of days ago the association of Bulgarians in Macedonia RADKO held a press conference and they said that the Macedonian police were repressing them because they were Bulgarian. When the journalists asked what had happened to them, one of them said that the p0lice gave him a ticket when he passed at a red light and the other said that the police gave him a ticket when he threw litter on the street. Mind you, they actually admitted they’d done these things, but there justification was that “the guy before me did it too, but only I got punished because I’m a Bulgarian”. What a joke, I mean, it’s a really, really sad state of affairs when the Bulgarian state stands behind these clowns.

    This whole thing is a farce that has really damaged the view that Macedonians had of Bulgaria, even of those that were previously sympathetic. I mean, I was one of those people that thought that even though there are a lot of unresolved questions, the relationship between the people is generally amicable and therefore, the relationship between the countries will only improve. This whole farce is so incredibly damaging (on purpose) and the reaction by the Bulgarian public so incredibly hysterical that it has totally proved me wrong.

    And one more thing. We can discuss about whether the sentence is proportional or not, but that’s not the issue that was raised by the Bulgarian public, now is it? No, instead, the issue that you raised is that she was sentenced because she was Bulgarian, which has nothing to do with reality.

    Now, I have a couple of questions for you.

    1. Is it a good thing that Spaska abused her Bulgarian citizenship in order to save her own skin, even though she DID break the law? Should all people in Macedonia who have a Bulgarian citizenship be outside of the law?

    2. Is it a good practice by the Bulgarian government to abuse cases like these in order to create international incidents where there aren’t any? What does that say about the future of Macedonian-Bulgarian relations?

  5. Вихър Георгиев

    Dear MM,

    Your tone is quite emotional. However, there are a couple of issues that need to be discussed further.

    You may want to read my post once more. I am interested in:

    1. The legal ramifications of the case that are not yet clarified. You say that she has broken the law; and you appear quite confident at that. However, I do not have sufficient information to accept or deny that claim. To my best knowledge our Foreign Ministry still hasn’t got the legal documentation. We don’t know whether due process was observed during the hearings against her.

    2. The dilomatic practice of the Macedonian government. I do not know of your background, but I haven’t heard recently of such diplomatic mishap as the handling of our verbal note. The Macedonian Foreign Ministry first announced its position in front of Macedonian media, and then announced it to our representatives, sort of. Such diplomatic behaviour is more suitable for a rogue state, and not for a future EU Member State.

    3. The Bulgarian citizenship issue. As you know very well, lots and lots of Macedonians do have Bulgarian citizenship. I can imagine that some of them will, in the future, perpetrate crimes. I do not expect the Macedonian government to treat them as sacred cows. However, in this case there is some evidence that indeed her citizenship may have influenced the legal proceedings. Additionally, there have been instances of mistreatment of Bulgarian citizens in Macedonia in the past. Now the Macedonian government should be able to explain this case provided that there is no involvement due to the double citizenship of the defendant. Please note – the burden of proof is to the Macedonian government and judiciary. I suppose that this case will go to Strasbourg anyway.

    4. The Bulgarian-Macedonian relations. I am not an expert on international relations, but it will be detrimental to the Macedonian candidacy to have poor relations with two Member States. We do not owe anyone unconditional support for membership provided that there are unsolved issues. The case of Croatia clearly shows that relations with EU Member States should be put in perspective, and thorny issues resolved on time. I do not believe that this accident is sufficient to alter our position on the EU membership of Macedonia (we support it). However, you need to understand that there is no irreversible support for anyone.

  6. 1. While the court system in Macedonia is far from perfect, this is no North Korea (I think you are aware of that). The court system is not that different than that of Bulgaria and basic human rights are respected. Also, it’s no secret that she had refused visitation rights to her husband, even after the court had warned her. Now, she claims that she hadn’t received the official note, but since this case had dragged since 2007 and she was included in the process, I don’t believe that she didn’t know the court’s decision. Indeed, the court claims to have warned her not one, but several times.

    “To my best knowledge our Foreign Ministry still hasn’t got the legal documentation.” Exactly. So, why did your government cause an incident before it was in possession of all of the documents, just on the word on some lady who wants to avoid jail time? All prisoners claim they are innocent, but that doesn’t mean they are telling the truth.

    2. I’m not a diplomat and don’t know how these things go. But, it’s really interesting how you already categorized us as a “rogue state” on the basis of a case for which you don’t even have the full information. I think it shows your personal bias which no doubt affects your judgment in this case, no matter how objective you wish to appear.

    3. Is there really evidence or just her word? Why couldn’t the Bulgarian government ask to see all the documents before it blew this case out of proportion?

    Speaking of “repressed Bulgarians”, are you talking about the guys from Radko that I referred to in the previous post who claimed that they’ve gotten a ticket for passing on red light because they are Bulgarian?

    4. Yes, it is detrimental. But, it’s not us who caused the problem. This is a typical case of making a scandal and worsening the relations just for the sake of it (so you’d have an excuse to block and blackmail us).

    “However, you need to understand that there is no irreversible support for anyone.” Statements like this are not going to improve the relations.

    The reality is that with this and other incidents (like for example when you took all the election material of the Rainbow party at the Bulgarian-Greek border, just days before the Greek elections) and with the talk of blocking us, more and more Macedonians put you in the same bag as Greece. And I can’t say I blame them.

  7. “… with the talk of blocking us, more and more Macedonians put you in the same bag as Greece”.

    I thought this site is about legislative matters but can now see that somebody is going to “put us in a bag”, which is perhaps an illustration of the FYROM’s justice and perception of Europe.

  8. Вихър Георгиев

    Dear MM,

    You continue to treat me as if I represent the Bulgarian state as a whole. I do not. Should you have grievances against Bulgaria as such, please refer to our Embassy.

    My point from the very beginning is that there are normal channels of communication between two neighbouring states to solve any misunderstandings. Macedonia has not performed well under diplomatic standards in this case. But on the other hand you need good diplomatic cooperation with ALL EU Member States to achieve membership. That is an essential requirement. Bear in mind that the European Commission expressly monitors bilateral relations of Macedonia with other Member States.

    Any emotions and accusations in this sense are of second order. I would like to remind you that currently one needs 27 ratification procedures in national parliaments and an approval vote in European Parliament to become a EU Member State.

    Again, I am considering this case in the light of the enlargement process. If you had read this blog in the past you would know that I monitor closely all bilateral disputes that impede further EU enlargement. You really need to understand that such incidents do not support the Macedonian candidacy.

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