Love’s Labour’s Lost

Aleksandar Krzhalovski

The new team that was introduced the other day by VMRO-DPMNE President Hristijan Mickoski, as he called it – a team of strategic associates, is nothing new on the Macedonian political scene, especially in terms of the two leading parties. Gruevski once presented a Council of Intellectuals led by former Prime Minister Nikola Kljusev, and SDSM spoke of a team of over 300 intellectuals preparing the new party programme ahead of the last parliamentary elections.
That the mobilization of (the most) capable people is needed for the proclaimed purpose – rebuilding Macedonia is more than clear and necessary, but whether the way to it is through the existing leading parties is debatable!First, the role of these teams is not quite clear, nor is the effect of their composition and appointment. I don’t have the impression that the experiences so far have been successful and productive, nor that some of those involved left some mark on the party’s activities. Here is the first, and perhaps the main ambiguity – what is the position of these teams in the party structure and their appearance in the existing hierarchy. And now it has been emphasized that the Executive Committee has approved this new structure within VMRO-DPMNE, placing it in a subordinate role (as it should) with respect to (at least) the members of the EC (and possibly higher authorities), so the question arises of what the function of those persons would be after the possible takeover of power… Such a setting does not seem to have the advantage of filling ministerial positions (and Mickoski himself confirmed it later in a TV interview). So then the question arises, why the appointment in this period.
The second reason for such a team might be to bring “fresh blood” to the party, demonstrate the capacity to attract capable staff, and gradually distance themselves from previous ones – in the hope that it will be perceived in the public and as breaking up with some or most of the bad policies and especially the bad (corrupt) practices of the previous VMRO-DPMNE government. But it will take time and concrete steps, documents, team results, even before the elections. And yet clearer statements, behaviors and actions by the party leadership to distance themselves from the past than any of the new team’s activities.
The third and perhaps the most ambitious idea with such a team is to make it a so-called shadow government, as the team’s initial presentation looks like (albeit later denied, but of course – the politicians are not so widely trusted, and here in particular they shouldn’t be trusted), emphasizing their expertise, high performance in the profession, and honesty as most have not been exposed to the public and thus not related (at least for the time being) to any affairs. For me personally, that announcement of an opposition “shadow government” is more than necessary (whether with individuals on this team or others, from party authorities for example). While in opposition, parties should profile clear candidates for specific ministerial positions, which would be on the party’s payroll throughout that period of time (albeit at our expense, through the state budget). But the question is whether it is the intention of such a team… and what in that case with the party organs and the people in them. This announcement of a team of expert associates at VMRO-DPMNE coincided with the start of the growing party activity, called “Talks for the Reconstruction of Macedonia”. At the same time the ruling SDSM started a similar activity titled “On the right path”. Both parties, due to legal restrictions, that is, a ban on conducting election campaigns beyond the 20 days preceding Election Day, carefully explain these activities as something other than an election campaign (much like asking each other questions at those pointless press conferences, so that they are not criminally liable for defamation – for what they say with their questions). But if this is not an election campaign, I don’t know what is. Several journalists have already commented on this, so let’s “send a message” to the Public Prosecutor’s Office, and let it investigate whether it is not an election campaign of both parties.
In addition, at least one new party (Your Party) has been formed these days, and there has been speculation about another (allegedly a party of the dissatisfied members of VMRO-DPMNE). With the behavior of the two largest parties in the past few years, the level of irresponsibility and improvisation in the conduct of politics and the state, and with the very low level of citizens’ confidence in the parties for a very long time, I think that there is room for a third option. The question is only to what extent a new movement or party will be able to gather people of quality, as well as capable people (such as the above-mentioned “experts”, for instance) and be large enough to gain a significant constituency in the short term ( probably six months, and at most one year) until the next parliamentary elections. However, I wish them a lot of luck – the timing and situation have never been better for a new party.
In addition, I hope and believe that all new party initiatives will try to attract representatives of all ethnic communities in leadership and membership, as SDSM did in the last parliamentary elections. Thus, the need for parties with ethnicity will become superfluous and perhaps in the next elections that work will be normalized in Macedonia as well, so that there is no such party in the ruling coalition.
Another issue in the field of interethnic relations has drawn attention these days – the Venice Commission’s “leaked” draft conclusions on the Law on the Use of Languages. As some commentators have already pointed out, this is unofficial but it is not a final opinion, so I will not comment on the content this time. But I would like to comment on the process – it becomes clear that the law was passed quickly, with a great deal of improvisation and party bargaining, and this demonstrates what I wrote above – the high level of irresponsibility in policy-making and “In the passing of laws (so spitting on the other party with questions on party press conferences became “legal”, and there are also legal ongoing campaigns that are “not really” campaigns). It is also clear that the usual procedure in the work of the Venice Commission had to be respected – to get their opinion first, then pass the law, and not institute a new procedure for amending the law to “patch up” the errors that they are embedded in it. To me, this is yet another confirmation of the saying – Love’s labour’s lost (by the way, I think that same saying will prove to be true for the Prespa Agreement, but let’s wait and see – time will tell).
Finally, on Sunday ahead of the EU’s “historic” summit, at which, for I don’t know which time, we will look forward to an even more historic EU decision to open Macedonia’s accession negotiations with the EU, and set the most historic date for that start, so let me share my forecast with you. Although I am one of the bigger skeptics, I think this time a favorable decision for Macedonia is quite certain. The date itself (for the first intergovernmental conference to start negotiations) may not be quite this year (December), but I expect it to be not too long in the future (probably in January, March or June at the latest), though there is still an element of “compromise” (more between member states than with us) – to determine “further” in the future. What I find concerning is – what will happen after the comma? That is, what will be required of us as new conditions during the negotiations (including later what will be the individual requirements of Bulgaria and Greece) or as is more frequently commented on – what will the new negotiation methodology be, and how long will it last But we’ll worry about this in the years to come – next week we’ll receive some good news and celebrate the long-awaited date.

Views expressed in this article are personal views of the author and do not represent the editorial policy of Nezavisen Vesnik