Parliament adopts law on use of languages

Parliament adopts law on use of languages
Macedonia's Parliament on Thursday adopted the Law on the Use of Languages. 69 MPs voted in favor of the law. The law was passed by a double majority, i.e. 27 deputies of minority communities voted for the law with one being in abstention.

The debate on the law on languages kicked off in Parliament on 5 September 2017 at the parliamentary committee on European affairs. On November 15, the parliamentary majority endorsed the need of passing the law.

The opposition party VMRO-DPMNE was against the law describing it as 'unconstitutional and discriminatory against the Macedonian languages and the remaining languages spoken by the citizens in Macedonia.'

The law was passed with VMRO-DPMNE lawmakers being absent from today's session. They have said they won't be taking part in any activity in Parliament as a sign of revolt against the arrest of five opposition MPs along some 30 citizens for their involvement in the incidents in Parliament on 27 April 2017.

President Gjorge Ivanov also argued against the law in his annual year-end address in Parliament. According to him, the law on languages represents a threat to the unitary character of the country and breaches the Constitution of the Republic of Macedonia.

During the debate, MPs of the ruling majority argued that the law was part of Macedonia's EU integration path and that it, in no way, breached the Constitution or the unitary character of the country.

PM Zoran Zaev on several occasions has reiterated that the law on languages was in compliance with the Constitution and that it was designed to advance some practical needs of the citizens.

The adoption of the Law on the Use of Languages concludes the normative aspect of the Ohrid Framework Agreement, MP Artan Grubi said Thursday.

"Fifteen years after the signing of the Ohrid Framework Agreement, today's adoption of the law on languages marked the conclusion of the normative aspect of this peace treaty that put an end to the 2001 war. Thus, today is a successful day and I congratulate all citizens on their courageous approach to complete this peace agreement. All we have to do now is to implement everything that has been adopted in Parliament," stated MP Grubi of DUI, the government coalition partner.

He said he expected the opposition party VMRO-DPMNE, being one of the signatories of the Ohrid Accord, to back the law. VMRO-DPMNE MPs didn't attend today's session.

According to Grubi, Macedonia, its society will benefit from the law by becoming more cohesive, inter-ethnic relations will become more relaxed and it will help close many issues stemming from the Framework Agreement.

Unless President Gjorge Ivanov, he said, decides against signing the bill, this move would be against the Framework Agreement. In that case, the law would be returned in Parliament for a re-vote. "I call on President Ivanov to become part of the successful story of concluding the Ohrid Framework Agreement by signing the decree, thus contributing to a more stable society where all citizens are equal," stated MP Grubi.

According to him, all MPs, both ruling and opposition deputies, should support reform-oriented laws, because 'the reform agenda is not an agenda of the government, it is the agenda of the country.'

Furthermore, MP Fadil Zendeli of the opposition party Besa said his party supported the law on the use of languages even though it failed in making the use of Albanian language official.

"Besa has already announced it would support the law, even though we have some remarks about it. We believe this law doesn't make the Albanian language official, it only allows certain improvements to be made regarding the use of Albanian in state institutions," said Zendeli

An elaboration of the Ministry of Justice notes the law foresees that in all state bodies in Macedonia, central institutions, public enterprises, agencies, directorates, institutions and organizations, commissions, legal entities, an official language - in addition to Macedonian and its alphabet - should be also the language used by 20% of the citizens of Macedonia and its alphabet (Albanian language).

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