North Macedonia must adhere to the negotiating framework with the European Union and adopt constitutional changes before starting the chapters, but the government remains open to dialogue with the opposition on all modalities regarding the implementation of this important obligation.
This was stated on Thursday by Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs Bojan Maricikj, commenting on the proposal of the leader of the Macedonian opposition, Hristijan Mickoski, that his party would support the constitutional changes if they were made at the end of the accession negotiations and after the protocol was ratified by the 27 EU member states.
The Constitution should be amended in the preamble section to include the Bulgarian minority, which is a condition for the start of North Macedonia’s European accession negotiations, based on the agreement with Sofia to resolve disputes over language, identity, and historical differences.
This agreement, which also represents the framework for negotiations with the EU, was approved on July 16th last year, followed by the first intergovernmental session between North Macedonia and the EU, but the negotiations for the chapters are conditioned by the approval of constitutional amendments.
Deputy Prime Minister Bojan Maricikj said that the opposition’s request implies its withdrawal from the position that it does not support the constitutional changes.
“The opposition is somewhat withdrawing from its initial stance and is now in favor of constitutional changes. We are ready to immediately form working groups to implement this idea. We are ready to adopt a law on negotiations with the European Union to dispel any dilemmas of the opposition regarding whether or not Macedonian national interests are being harmed,” said Maricikj.
The leader of VMRO-DPMNE Hristijan Mickoski said on Wednesday after a meeting with Prime Minister Dimitar Kovačevski that if the request for a change in the Constitution is fulfilled before the country officially becomes an EU member, he would accept being part of the expanded government, but without the participation of the Democratic Union for Integration (DUI), which is currently part of the government.
VMRO accuses DUI led by Ali Ahmeti of “involvement in organized crime and corruption” and other processes that “have harmed national and state interests”.
DUI has agreed not to be part of the expanded government “if the opposition supports the constitutional changes, which must come into force before the formation of that government”.
“The European future of citizens comes first,” wrote DUI spokesperson Bujar Osmani on Facebook.
Maricikj said it is not good to have “excluded” parties in this process, but that everyone should work together to achieve the final goal.
“I think the idea of having excluded parties is not good. The Prime Minister also said this. Our idea is how to ensure that everyone is included in this process, because otherwise we will be involved in a battle that is not only political but also ethnic,” said Maricikj.
Political analysts consider the positions of political parties as tactical maneuvers because the negotiating framework cannot be changed.
Fejzi Hajdari, a political analyst and publisher of the newspaper “Lajm” told Radio Free Europe that based on the positions of parties such as VMRO-DPMNE, SDSM, and DUI, it is unlikely that constitutional amendments will be approved, as these are tactical maneuvers that will inevitably lead North Macedonia to early parliamentary elections.
“Such statements are more of a tactical and political nature than practical. With the high party ratings that VMRO currently has, it is unlikely that they would accept changes related to a part of the Macedonian national identity, as well as the inclusion of Bulgarians in the Constitution. I think accepting this offer for Mickoski’s party now, when the elections are expected to be held very soon, would automatically mean a decrease in their ratings. Therefore, considering this, VMRO in no way would accept the changes,” he said.
Hajdari believes that “if the amendments are not approved, there is a possibility that North Macedonia will face consequences both internally and externally”, especially from Bulgaria, which, according to him, could once again use its veto if the Bulgarian minority is not included in the preamble of the Constitution of North Macedonia.