Diplomatic – referendum fever

The visits of powerful politicians and diplomats who, in the next few days will be practically “queuing” to enter the country, are certainly a message for everyone regarding the agreement with Greece and those who are all hesitant to go to the polls

Aleksandra M. Mitevska

In the coming days – by the end of the week, the referendum, as a central political topic in the country in the past month, will finally be overshadowed by other developments in the country.

The diplomatic offensive, which begins in parallel with the intensification of the campaign, certainly is related to the referendum, but it primarily means strong support for the country’s Euro-Atlantic perspectives. These perspectives currently depend largely on the development of the situation with the referendum, as they previously depended on the implementation of the reform priorities and on the achievement of the agreement with Greece. In the past months, the Macedonian government has managed to overcome those challenges, in the first case, mainly thanks to the consensus that has been reached with the opposition, and in the second with the assistance of the international factor and with the awareness that the compromise on the name, albeit painful and unpopular, is necessary a move to return the country to the track for Brussels.

Macedonia is now back on the tracks that need to bring it to NATO and bring it closer to the EU, but the challenges remain at a time when the situation in some of the countries in the region is becoming more delicate. In the event that the referendum fails, the country will again come out of the track and who knows when a new opportunity to return will present itself.

That is why the arrival of politicians and diplomats of the highest rank, just in the days before and during the celebration of the 27th anniversary of the country is no surprise. It is a clear message for the Government, but above all for the citizens, that the support and logistics of the international factor continues. But it is a message for all skeptics and emotionally-minded groups and individuals regarding the agreement with Greece and those who still hesitate whether they should go to the polls on September 30th. More precisely, should they in the country on that day at all, even though their presence at home should be implied, given the weight of the functions they perform and the criticality of the political moment.

The visits of powerful politicians and diplomats who, in the next few days will be practically “queuing” to enter the country, are certainly a message for people who, from the very beginning, even before the announcement of the name agreement, were determined to boycott the referendum. And that they will run campaigns in that direction, remaining blind for the big picture that draws the significance of the agreement on the fulfillment of the strategic goals of the state, as well as the deaf for the arguments that compromise is inevitable to achieve the larger whole.

The arrival of NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, for the second time in eight months in the country, the visit of Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, who in the past and while being the head of diplomacy, was a strong supporter of the previous right-wing government in the country, and above all a historic visit to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, can be interpreted as a signal that the integration of Macedonia into the EU and NATO, as a strategic priority for the country since the beginnings of independence, now becomes a strategic interest in the international but a community. If it wasn’t so, the diplomats were likely to continue to be interested in maintaining the political stability of the country and fulfilling the criteria for membership in prestigious international organizations, but they would not send their aces here, and instead, the situation would be managed at a slightly lower level.

On the other hand, the diplomatic mood in Macedonia is a kind of indicator of the criticality and uncertainty of the political situation in the country, after the signing of the agreement with Greece and the announcement of the referendum. The success of the September 30th voting is still a relative matter, although the results of the polls are encouraging and are enticing hope that next month, Macedonia’s politics will be able to enter the next phase of the implementation of the agreement with Greece, that is, in the procedure for constitutional changes.

This anniversary of the independence of Macedonia, although not a jubilee, has a special symbolism, which is additionally strengthened by Merkel’s visit to the country precisely on September 8th. The symbolism is in a parallel that is easily drawn between the referendum in 1991 and the upcoming referendum held in the same month as it was 27 years ago. Shortly after September 8, when Macedonia won its independence, the state placed as a top priority for the future membership in NATO and the EU, after which its political elites were on many occasions able to make painful but necessary compromises in the direction of its fulfillment. From the vote at the end of this September, however, it depends whether this priority will receive a civil certificate – now that we are on the threshold of its realization.