Saturday

19th Oct 2019

Opinion

Amending the constitution: A historic opportunity for Macedonia

  • Ziadin Sela: 'After being beaten by dozens of mobsters, I was left for dead in the corridors of parliament'

What was bound to happen has happened. The government of Macedonia has seen ex-prime minister Nikola Gruevski flee and seek political asylum in Hungary.

The farce went as far as prime minister Zoran Zaev raising the possibility of Gruevski's possible 'abduction' - annihilating what his government had left in credibility.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

This move kills the hope of our citizens that justice can prevail in this country. It seriously damages the process launched on 27 April, 2017 to permanently anchor Macedonia within the EU after we overthrew the VMRO-DPMNE/Democratic Union for Integration (DUI) regime.

At the attempted coup of 27 April 2017 – later qualified as a terrorist attack – after being beaten by dozens of mobsters, I was left for dead in the corridors of parliament.

Hundreds of hooligans, masked paramilitaries and intelligence agents were let inside the parliament by VMRO-DPMNE MPs, with a mission to eliminate Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) leader Zaev and myself.

The Alliance for the Albanians played a major role in reaching the 61 MPs needed to form a new majority.

However, the Alliance decided to leave the government after less than six months as it became clear that Zaev cannot bring the radical transformation required for the Europeanisation of Macedonia.

To the contrary, we witnessed the installation of a new state capture by SDSM-DUI as Zaev started rehabilitating corrupt politicians.

It is revealing that he appointed as his deputy in charge of EU integration, Bujar Osmani, a former Gruevski minister for health, against whom Zaev had submitted evidence of corruption to the public prosecuter in 2015 and who is now being investigated by the special prosecutor.

Impunity has led a number of current ministers to be involved with corruption cases.

Corruption also explains the failure of the 30 September referendum on the Prespa Agreement.

I had publicly warned the government that holding a referendum was both dangerous and unnecessary because it would only increase tensions among citizens, while parliament would anyhow have to amend the constitution, no matter the outcome.

EU and Nato

Despite these hesitations, we supported the referendum and voted for amending of the constitution, as strong believers that Macedonia has no other perspective besides EU and Nato.

Nevertheless, we are deeply concerned by the two-thirds majority secured by Zaev, relying on a number of VMRO MPs prosecuted in relation to the April 27th events and corruption cases.

Observers have raised suspicions on promises for amnesty, blackmailing and buying of MPs, involving Gruevski's head of intelligence services Sasho Mijalkov, now partly confirmed by Zaev's calls a for pardon and national reconciliation.

This must not be allowed. Macedonia doesn't need reconciliation between the SDSM, VMRO and DUI.

What it needs is an independent judiciary so that wrongdoers from all parties are brought behind bars. What Macedonia needs is a reconciliation between Albanians and Macedonians, based on an internal agreement for full equality between communities.

Three-point plan for constitution

The amendment of the constitution provides the opportunity to achieve this by addressing the below issues:

1. The constitution should define Macedonia as the state of Macedonians, Albanians and other communities that constitute it. Albanians are autochthonous in Macedonia and living on their ancestral lands. They cannot be treated as temporarily living in a Macedonian nation-state.

2. 'Citizenship', as formulated by the Prespa Agreement, as "Macedonian / Citizen of the Republic of Northern Macedonia" is unacceptable. Macedonia is established as a multi-ethnic country where citizens of different national backgrounds, including Macedonians, Albanians, Turks, Roma, Aromanians and others have "Citizenship of the Republic of Macedonia" under the current constitution. Zaev's attempts to link citizenship to the Macedonian nation are offensive to the Albanians, who are not and will never be Macedonians. If the current definition of citizenship is altered, Albanians too will request the right to use their nationality next to citizenship in the form "Albanian / Citizen of the Republic of Northern Macedonia".

3. Albanian should be confirmed as the second official language of the country. It is unacceptable that "Albanian" remains a forbidden word and is referred to as "the language different from Macedonian and spoken by at least 20 percent of the population", implying a temporary right which can be suspended based on percentages.

Taking into consideration the above, I appeal on all party leaders to sit together and reach an agreement so that the new constitution addresses these problems in a truly European spirit.

This would pave the way to the establishment of a technical government that has both the legitimacy and the credibility for amending the constitution, before new elections are held.

The EU through its new enlargement strategy has set the ambitious goal of supporting a comprehensive political, economic and societal transformation of the Western Balkans.

It now has a duty to accompany the above process if it is serious about initiating accession talks with Macedonia.

Brussels should make it clear to all that cultural and linguistic diversity is at the core of the European project, as are good governance and accountability.

That means Macedonia's European integration process must not be led by politicians investigated for corruption and supported by 'terrorist' MPs in exchange for amnesty.

That also means Hungary should immediately hand over Gruevski to Macedonia.

Ziadin Sela is an MP and leader of the Alliance for the Albanians, a centre-right party established in 2015, and previously the mayor of Struga

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

Asylum for Macedonia's ex-PM puts Orban on spot

Authorities in Budapest confirmed the former prime minister of Macedonia, fleeing a jail sentence in his own country, has filed for asylum. Despite Hungary's strict asylum laws, the pro-Kremlin politician was not turned away.

Europe's empty fortress

It is too easy only to criticise the rightists and their fixation with barbed wire, Trump for his wall on the border with Mexico, Orban for his xenophobia.

Catalonia shows dangers of jail terms for non-violence

Time and again, across the world, efforts to "decapitate" non-violent movements, and refusals to engage in political dialogue with them, have led to situations like we are seeing today in Catalonia.

Polish election: analysing why PiS won

Support for democracy was particularly low in Poland with only 19 percent consistently supporting democracy - only Hungary and Bulgaria scored lower.

News in Brief

  1. Macron: Nato's inability to react to Turkey a 'mistake'
  2. EU: US can expect counter measures after tariff move
  3. Almost 7,500 people forcibly returned to Libya in 2019
  4. Puigdemont released after responding to arrest warrant
  5. Commission: Facebook's Libra needs international approach
  6. Italian PM: denial of accession talks a 'historic mistake'
  7. Catalan president blames clashes on 'infiltrators'
  8. US imposes €6.7bn new tariffs on European products

Defending the defenders: ombudsmen need support

Ombudsmen are often coming under attack or facing different kinds of challenges. These can include threats, legal action, reprisals, budget cuts or a limitation of their mandate.

Column

The benefits of being unpopular

Paradoxically, the lack of popularity may be part of the strength of the European project. Citizens may not be super-enthusiastic about the EU, but when emotions run too high in politics, hotheads may take over.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  2. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  3. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  4. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  6. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  10. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  12. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  2. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  3. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  8. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  9. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  12. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  5. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  6. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  7. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  8. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  10. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  11. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us