Last chance or Plan B for Macedonia?

With 69 votes in favor, MPs in the Parliament ratified the agreement on a final name settlement with Greece. From the parliamentary speaker, Zoran Zaev, demanding the support of the MPs, said that Macedonia not only receives a new strategic partner in Greece, but also achieves the century-long aspiration of our ancestors to be recognized throughout the world as a Macedonian nation speaking Macedonian.

“Instead of bitterness and anger, to write down the future pages together, to lead the citizens towards a common prosperous Macedonia following the example of the advanced European countries. The European family accepts us as Macedonians. We made a new friend and a strategic partner, we guarantee the stability and security of Macedonia, we are opening the way to the EU and NATO. We are achieving the aspiration of our ancestors, to be recognized by all as Macedonians speaking Macedonian. This is a historic act by which Macedonia and citizens get a chance,” said Prime Minister Zoran Zaev. But the prime minister did not stop here and announced that Macedonia and the enlargement would be on the agenda of the next NATO Summit.

“The North Atlantic Alliance reached a unanimous political decision today to officially discuss Macedonia’s NATO invitation during the Alliance’s Summit in Brussels,” Zaev said.

DUI Member Artan Grubi said Macedonia is at a crossroads where citizens should choose whether they are for destabilization or for Europe.

“Today the sun of freedom, of equality, of belonging, of the fulfillment of the common dream for Euro-Atlantic Macedonia is really born. Can any of us change the direction of the wind? No, but we can fix the sails to the right destination, in the West where our sun rises, predetermined by our revivalists. Our children tomorrow will be under the shadow of the European tree that we plant today in the Parliament, with leadership and mission. This is what we do today, and tomorrow the sun will certainly rise, for us as for the next generations it will rise, but it depends on how finish the task today. Today my heart shivers because I feel Macedonia as my own country,” Grubi said.

But are there serious obstacles to the name settlement to be fully implemented?

During the signing, but also several days thereafter, both in Macedonia and Greece, the main nationalist parties stage protests because, according to them, the agreement is harmful for both countries. President Gjorge Ivanov, despite Prime Minister Zoran Zaev’s warning that if the president did not respect the will of the people expressed in the referendum, he would call for impeachment, but the president stated that his position remained unchanged and said that the agreement with Greece was unconstitutional and harmful.

“I call on Zaev with the same two-thirds majority that is necessary for changing the Constitution of the Republic of Macedonia, to immediately instigate a procedure for determining the responsibility of the President of the Republic, that is, impeachment. My position regarding the harmful name agreement is final and remains unchanged despite all the stated threats and pressures “- reads President Ivanov’s statement.

Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, except for announcing an impeachment for President Ivanov, again in a ‘Channel 5’ broadcasting added that the predecessor of Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski accepted the change of name in 2012 and 2013.
“If the court were to publish the name talks, you would see that this is not the first time a name with a geographical qualifier, erga omnes, has been accepted. Nikola Gruevski accepted North and Upper Macedonia in 2012 and 2013, without defining the identity, ie without Greece accepting identity and language, it was left to to be decided. Greece did not accept this decision because it was provoked by the ‘Skopje 2014’ project. This is in the recorded talks, and I’m telling it for the first time,” Zaev said.

In Greece and the Greek Parliament, parties are divided into those who will vote in favor and those who are opposed to the agreement. In the morning interview, a lawmaker from Greece’s opposition party said there was no chance that New Democracy would support the agreement between Macedonia and Greece, and would not vote for it in Parliament.

“As a government, we will do everything possible, everything that is in our power, with all negotiating, diplomatic and political means, with contacts in order to change this negative development for the country under the agreement. It is our duty,” said the foreign affairs official in New Democracy, Giorgos Koumoutsakos, in an interview with Greek TV “Antenna”. He added that the government “in the best possible circumstances, has reached the worst possible deal” and explained why they consider the deal to be bad.

“The combination of the name North Macedonia by accepting Macedonian language and Macedonian nationality, this combination is explosive. It really is the basis of a new irredentism. Why? Since there is already one North Macedonia and obviously Southern Macedonia, in the eyes of the Skopjans, not in our eyes, there is one Macedonia for us. The combination that there is a Southern Macedonia and the Macedonians are there, you realize that the combination is explosive, there is no need to get into other issues, this one is quite enough,” explained Koumoutsakos.

But the positive messages about the reached agreement do not subside. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in his latest speech that Macedonia was expecting Macedonia to get a date for Macedonia and finally join the NATO Alliance.

I hope that we will make progress with FYROM because they have reached an agreement with Greece on the name. If this agreement is finalized and fully implemented, the new name of the state will be the Republic of North Macedonia, and then we can talk about a full-fledged membership of Macedonia. I sincerely believe this can be achieved,” Stoltenberg told France 24.

According to unofficial announcements, if the agreement is ratified on time, it is possible that Macedonia will receive an invitation to become a member of the NATO on July 11.

Just 48 hours after the signing of the agreement with Greece, the law on its ratification under European flag entered the parliamentary procedure. Opposition VMRO-DPMNE, in addition to voting against, announced that the party would ask for an opinion from the Venice Commission on the agreement. Apart from the parliamentary pulpit, VMRO-DPMNE sent a message through a press conference that by ratifying the agreement, the parliamentary majority actually deprives the Macedonian citizens of their statehood.

“With the agreement, the statehood of the Macedonians has been taken away. They lost their state. Zaev admits that all institutions will have to replace and lose the Macedonian omen. Zaev acknowledged that all institutions would have to remove the name and instead of the adjective Macedonian, they would have to add “of North Macedonia” at the end of the name, said VMRO-DPMNE’s reporter, Naum Stoilkovski.

Aliu: Ivanov and VMRO-DPMNE lack the power to prevent the implementation of the agreement

Despite the reaction of President Ivanov that his position on signing the agreement remains unchanged, but also the reactions of VMRO – DPMNE that the agreement is harmful, part of the analysts share the opinion that Ivanov and VMRO – DPMNE have no power to stop the process from running, and the agreement to be fully implemented.

But knowing the parliamentary powers in the party’s legislature, is the impeachment announced by Prime Minister Zoran Zaev really possible, and what is the stake for Macedonia in the event that the agreement fails? Analyst Qenan Aliu believes that Prime Minister Zoran Zaev and the parliamentary majority do not possess sufficient power for that intention to succeed in the parliament, therefore, according to him, President Ivanov acts as a kind of “king”.

“As for the name issue, Ivanov can not prevent the process in the first stages, but his last behavior, definitely ahead of the main US and EU partners, has deformed his political figure as president of the country. No one can predict how the process will flow if it involves actors such as VMRO-DPMNE and predecessor Ivanov who have definitely tightened the rope of total international isolation,” Aliu said.

Blerim Ismaili