“The Prespa Agreement is central to plans for the country’s future. It is also the essence of your youth ambitions and what we can do together in the years to come. It is a simple, clear and modest message that I want to send you. I cannot take your place because you vote independently in this political debate that is important to the country. You have to choose and decide whether or not to amend the Constitution so that the agreement becomes effective. To become North Macedonia, according to the agreement. I am resolutely ‘in favor’ and firmly believe this deal is good! For you, for the entire region and for Europe. I count on you”.
This is part of the video message French President Emmanuel Macron sent to Macedonian voters ahead of the name referendum in September, 2018. Eleven months later, from someone being wind at the government’s back, Macron turned into someone who will blow down the government building on Ilinden Street if he decides not to give Macedonia the green light to start EU accession negotiations.
After all, the referendum question was: “Are you in favor of joining the EU and NATO by accepting the agreement between Greece and Macedonia”, whereby the Government in Skopje wanted to emphasize that the sacrifice we make by changing the name will be rewarded by moving our country on the fast lane to Brussels.
For the past two and a half years, as Prime Minister Zoran Zaev heads the ministers, the emphasis has been on resolving thorny foreign issues. Now it seems that changing the name, however, has not been a decisive factor that will bring us closer to the EU, and additional pressure is being created by Bulgaria, which understands the friendship agreement as a chance to impose its views on Macedonia.
“The main themes in my presidential election campaign were joining the EU and NATO as the main strategic goals. We expect to become a NATO member in the coming months. But if EU accession negotiations are prolonged, The Union will lose much of its credibility if the accession negotiations are delayed. The EU enthusiasm in our country will drop significantly. People were asking ‘Why did we change the name?’ and we told them ‘So that we join the EU’. Now people are asking ‘Why is there another delay?’” President Stevo Pendarovski says in an interview with Austrian Die Presse.
He says no other country has changed its name to become part of the EU integration process. The president said North Macedonia was disappointed in June, when it was scheduled to start the accession negotiations, with the EU saying “Sorry, we are still not prepared”.
Prime Minister Zoran Zaev is aware that a negative response from Brussels will mean both a loss of reputation and doubt in the policies pursued by his team. The question arises as to why the name was changed then and why all those troublesome moments in persuading opposition MPs to change sides and vote on the treaty, and in return, giving amnesty that destroyed the country’s legal system. Zaev, like all party and government officials, reiterates that they are willing to pay a political price for the failure, but the question is which one? Will the Parliament be dissolved immediately and a technical government formed to organize early spring elections, especially as it becomes clear that the census will be delayed? Or will the government continue to rule until the end of its term, but it will no longer have the strongest argument for a better future?
Prime Minister Zaev yesterday rejected the possibility of early parliamentary elections, even if we do not get a date, explaining that we must not jeopardize the predictability in society.
“In a situation where we as a country have no alternative to NATO and the EU, politicians are temporary and changeable, but the predictability of the economy should be left to the end of its term. Regularity of elections is regularity of society. Ensuring the predictability of the economy is an important thing, so in my opinion, our country needs regular elections. And regular elections for me are those scheduled for next October”, Zaev added.
While EU membership negotiations remain uncertain, there is no doubt that Macedonia will become the 30th member state of NATO. The only dilemma is whether it will happen by the end of this year or March next year due to political problems in Spain.
“There may be a consensus among the political parties in the country for holding early elections immediately after joining NATO, so as not to jeopardize that formality,” says analyst Petar Arsovski.
He does not want to prejudge the decision on the date, nor blame the possible “no” for the government’s fault or the lack of political will in Brussels.
“It is a fact that the government will pay a political price. Whether snap elections will be called, a technical government will be formed – I don’t know, but it is clear that the Government’s position will not be sustainable in the long run. I think the government has made a mistake in terms of political marketing, so one gets the impression that their entire focus was on the outside, not on solving domestic problems. However, it will do more harm to the rating at home than in the positions outside, because if you look at the EU narrative, there is no one saying that the government has not done its job”, Arsovski concluded.
The opposition says early parliamentary elections must take place immediately after the Brussels decision, whether positive or negative.
“The road to Europe has many challenges and problems, but one seems to be the biggest and it is pushing the country backwards and taking its future. His name is Zoran Zaev. This man cannot deliver results, let alone a European future. Macedonia is on the wrong track, and the government is just wasting time. Citizens need renewal and are therefore ready to fight like never before”, said Igor Janushev, VMRO-DPMNE’s Secretary General.
The Alliance for Albanians has also announced that once the EU news has arrived, they will pressure for holding early elections.
The dissolution of Parliament requires 61 lawmakers that the opposition cannot provide, unless the government agrees to such an epilogue.
DUI in the past period has stated that it is not time for early elections, because the country’s focus should be on European integration, i.e. on solving the economic problems in the country. However, the party’s position is in line with their conviction that we will receive a date for accession negotiations by the end of the week. They refuse to think of a negative epilogue.