Signs of a breakthrough in Macedonia as SDSM offers guarantees to Ivanov

Signs of a breakthrough in Macedonia as SDSM offers guarantees to Ivanov
By Valentina Dimitrievska in Skopje May 11, 2017

The Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) said on May 11 it is ready to submit guarantees to President Gjorge Ivanov it will preserve the unitary character of the country, in a sign that a possibly violent crisis in the Southeast European country can be avoided. 

The SDSM’s offer addresses the obstacle raised by Ivanov, who has so far avoided giving a mandate to SDSM leader Zoran Zaev to form a government, even though he has a majority in the parliament. It is still possible that Ivanov, who is close to the ruling VMRO-DPMNE party, will not be satisfied with the guarantees, but both the president and VMRO-DPMNE are under heavy pressure from the international community to agree to a handover of power to the SDSM.

Ivanov reiterated on May 10 that Zaev should provide guarantees that he would preserve the unitary character of Macedonia if he wants to be given a mandate to form a government. Ivanov made the statement after he received a second letter from Macedonia’s newly elected parliamentary speaker, Talat Xhaferi, informing him about the new majority in the parliament.

“Citizens and the international community are openly acquainted with the programme of the new reform government that will guarantee the unity of Macedonia, and will work according to the constitution and towards Euro-Atlantic integration,” the SDSM said in a statement on May 11. 

The party did not give details on what kind of guarantees will be provided.

The guarantees will be prepared together with two of the three ethnic Albanian parties that are supporting the SDSM – the Democratic Union for Integration (DUI) and Besa. The Alliance for Albanians, which is also part of the new majority in the parliament, will not participate in providing guarantees, Radio Slobodna Evropa reported on May 11.

“The SDSM leader should provide guarantees because he will be given a mandate – we have nothing to do with it,” an official from the Alliance for Albanians was quoted as saying.

Ivanov’s refusal to give a mandate to Zaev has plunged the country, which has been without a government since the December 11 snap election, into a deeper crisis that threatens the stability of this ethnically volatile nation.

Ivanov claims that Zaev’s support for the platform drawn up by the Albanian parties – the so-called “Tirana platform” that seeks greater rights for ethnic Albanians – is dangerous for Macedonia and could lead to the federalisation of the former Yugoslav state.

The news that Zaev was planning to make concessions to the ethnic Albanian parties sparked mass protests in Macedonia. On the evening that Xhaferi was elected, angry demonstrators forced their way into the parliament and attacked several opposition MPs. 

As signs emerge that Ivanov could be wavering, Zaev has commented on some of his plans should he become prime minister. 

In an interview with Montenegrin daily Pobjeda, Zaev said that Macedonia will become the 30th member of Nato – a move that will be sure to rankle with the Russians, who are widely suspected of involvement in stirring up the recent trouble in Macedonia.

Greece, which objects to the use of the name "Macedonia” as it is shared by a Greek province, has blocked Macedonia’s efforts so far to join the Nato since 2008. However, Zaev said he expects Macedonia to solve the long-standing dispute with Greece through dialogue very shortly.

“Nato membership is important because the military alliance provides stability, security and inviolability of borders particularly in our Balkans region,” Zaev told Pobjeda

If successful, the resolution of the name issue would also unblock Macedonia’s bid to start EU accession talks.