Due to a trivial reason, the draft law on the population census, families and households has suddenly disappeared from the parliamentary procedure, where it entered Friday under a European flag.
The European Affairs Committee, according to its President Artan Grubi, failed to provide a representative of the EU Mission, nor did it invite representatives of the diplomatic corps and other guests, bearing in mind that aside from the draft census law, the EC report is also on the agenda.
“We scheduled the committee session on Friday afternoon, but the EC’s report is also on the agenda, so due to the short preparation period we failed to secure a representative from the EU Mission, nor invite the diplomatic corps, non-governmental organizations and other guests”, cites Grubi without stating when the committee session will be held.
The Parliament’s website does reveal a new date for holding the committee session.
SDSM MPs say that the session was postponed by President Grubi without any explanation.
Opposition accuses of yet another betrayal
VMRO-DPMNE threatened to boycott the census, if the envisaged solutions for enumeration of those who are absent from the country remain in the draft law for longer than one year. According to VMRO-DPMNE, the provision according to which the data for persons who are temporarily working or staying abroad can be provided by an adult who knows them by giving their own personal identification number and personal identification number of the person for whom they provide data in the census is disputable.
According to the party, the law was drafted without consulting, and by placing the European flag the government tries to pass a legal text in a fast-track parliamentary procedure, without a public debate during which the views of the opposition and the citizens would be shared.
SDSM Spokesperson Kostadin Kostadinov says it is extremely important to conduct the census in the country, which, as he says, has not been conducted for years due to political calculations by the then ruling VMRO-DPMNE.
“I expect that all political subjects will understand the essence and need of the population census. I also expect from VMRO-DPMNE to encourage and give up its intentions to boycott, there is a way in the framework of the Parliament, within negotiation groups and within the parties where it can be discussed, and finally a make a decision which will be in the interest of the citizens,” said Kostadinov.
The boycott of the census must not happen, said the director of the State Statistical Office Atanas Simovski. He also explained that the reason for the withdrawal of the draft law was not party disagreements, but rather that there wasn’t a representative of the EU, because the law is marked with a European flag.
“A possible boycott will be a disaster, not for our institution, not for the census, but for the state,” said Simovski. Final preparations for the trial census are underway. On Wednesday, the enumerators will have their training, and already on Friday they will be out on field work in a total of 13 municipalities.
Diaspora to be enumerated on a separate list
The expert public is baffled by the latest political calculations for a statistical operation that needs to answer several key questions – how many people live in Macedonia, how these people are living, what are their real social, economic, regional problems, so that the appropriate policies are applied in the future.
With the census, which will cost the country 522.751.000 denars (nearly nine million euros), data on geographical, demographic, economic, educational, migration, and ethnic-cultural characteristics will be provided against the idea of the State Statistical Office to have no ethnic count, which sparked fierce controversy in the public.
One of the changes in the draft law is that the census will cover all those who live abroad longer than one year.
“The Social and Economic Council of the United Nations along with Eurostat provide recommendations that must be respected. International standards say that those that are over 12 months abroad should not be included in the total population number of the country. There will be a separate graph for them. This group of people enters the total population of the country where they live and work. This also applies to foreigners who have been staying in the country for more than a year. They are included in the total population number here,” explains the former director of the Statistical Office, Doncho Gerasimovski.
He does not see anything disputable about the fact that a close member of the family will be able to provide information about the person who is currently abroad, nor the fact that the emigrants will be allowed to self-enumerate in the period between March 1 and April 21, 2020 on a separate application, which is available on the website of the State Statistical Office.
“The envisaged census will be implemented with the so-called combined method, something that has not been a practice so far, and used to be a practice in other countries. This method involves simultaneous field inventory with that classic method, a “face to face” interview, but also use of data from registers, or databases. In the census application, the database of dozens of institutions, starting from the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Pension Disability Fund, the Health Fund, the Employment Agency, the Public Revenue Office will be intersect and checked. It is it is not as if anyone can be easily registered. This is a whole system for managing the database. If it is determined that they have no activity in the country for a longer period of time, they will be registered, but on a separate list, for people who live and work abroad,” said Gerasimovski.
What is particularly important is that according to the proposed legal solution, the Statistical Office is now the only competent authority for carrying out the statistical operation. It was not like that in 2011. The political body was responsible for the so-called census committee composed of 25 members. That’s why the process ended as it ended – infamously, with the termination of the operation. On the eve of the census, resignations by the members of the census committee were flying all over the place. First Vice President Abdulmenah Bexheti resigned, followed by President Vesna Janeva.
Bexheti said in a statement for Nezavisej Vesnik/ Independent daily newspaper that the ethnicity question was the reason why the census was not realized. Disagreements among the members of the then census committee also came up over the different interpretation of Article 6 of the Census Act regarding the enumeration of citizens living abroad for more than one year. The law stipulated that citizens living abroad for less than 12 months should be enumerated, while members of the committee that were of Turkish and Albanian nationality were in a position with the census to include all those living abroad for more than one year, as is the case with the new draft law.
The Special Public Prosecutor’s Office, due to the controversial interruption, opened a case against the leaders of the then ruling VMRO-DPMNE and DUI, Gruevski and Ahmeti, for suspected misuse of their powers.
According to the prosecutor Fatime Fetai, on October 10 and 11, 2011, the suspects agreed to stop the census, causing damage of 175 million denars.
N: The Statistics Office denies fake news about the census
Regarding the information in the media about the withdrawal of the draft text of the law on the census of the population, households and apartments in the Republic of North Macedonia in 2020 and the reasons for the withdrawal, the State Statistical Office strongly denies the fake news over the interpretation of certain articles of the law.
“The public debate on the draft text of the census law began in mid-2018, with the public familiar with the draft text through a number of interviews in the media and a wide debate organized by the Office, which included the civil sector and the research centers, academia and the media. After this phase, the draft text of the Law was posted on the ENER site and was made available for comments, notes and suggestions. It should be noted that no objection was received,” the SSO said.
Regarding the compliance with the standards, all standards and recommendations of the United Nations and Eurostat were strictly respected at all stages of the preparation of the draft census law, and the complete operation is already, and will stay under constant monitoring by Eurostat.
“Regarding why the draft law is marked with a European flag, we would like to remind that for several years in the report of the European Commission, in chapter 18 – statistics, one of the main benchmarks is the implementation of a census on population, households and apartments and the preparation of this statistical action are backed up by the IPA programs – 2015 and 2017. The State Statistical Office, as before, is available for explanations regarding the census activity and the provisions of the law, and strongly opposes the spreading misinformation regarding this extremely important statistical operation for the country as a whole, and for each individual separately,” said the SSO.