Macedonian government starts procedure to change country's name

Macedonian government starts procedure to change country's name
By Valentina Dimitrievska in Skopje October 8, 2018

The Macedonian government launched on October 8 the procedure for the adoption of constitutional changes that foresee the change of the country's name to North Macedonia, and sent the proposal to the parliament for approval.

The constitutional changes are needed for the implementation of the name deal with Greece that will solve the years-long dispute between the two countries, and will unblock Macedonia’s Euro-Atlantic integration process. 

The government has taken the move even though it is still unclear if it will be able to secure the two-thirds majority in the Assembly needed for the vote to be successful. On September 30, citizens of Macedonia voted in a referendum on the name deal with Greece and over 90% of those who voted said yes to the agreement. However, as the referendum fell short of reaching a threshold of 50%, the leader of the main opposition party, VMRO-DPMNE, Hristijan Mickoski said the party’s MPs will not support the constitutional changes.

Votes from 80 lawmakers in the 120-seat parliament are needed for the changes to be adopted. So far Social Democrat led government has the support of 71 MPs. That means nine MPs from the opposition also need to say yes to the amendments.

There will be four changes to the Constitution, the government said in a statement, following the extraordinary meeting.

In the entire text of the Constitution of the Republic of Macedonia, the adjective "North" will be added before the word Macedonia.

The second change relates to the preamble of the Constitution, in which the specific documents of ASNOM (the Anti-fascist Assembly for the National Liberation of Macedonia) will be cited to reaffirm the foundations of Macedonia's statehood.

ASNOM was the supreme legislative and executive people's representative body of the Macedonian state from 1944 until the end of World War II. It is linked with the establishment of the modern Macedonian state within the former Yugoslavian Federation.

The third change is in article 3, where it will be declared that the country "will respect the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of the neighbouring countries."

Article 49 of the Constitution that relates to the diaspora will be also changed and will suggest a "care for the cultural, economic and social rights of the members of the Macedonian people and all our citizens abroad, without interference in the sovereign rights of other states and in their internal works, in any form and for any reason ".

“Now all MPs, regardless of which party they belong, have a historic obligation to secure the path of Macedonia towards stability, security and economic prosperity, and that is the path to Nato and the EU that leads through the Macedonia-Greek agreement,” the government said in the statement.

It was not announced when the parliament session on the amendments will take place, but government spokesperson Mile Bosnjakovski said it is expected that MPs will start working on the constitutional changes on October 9.

There are rumours that negotiations with opposition MPs are ongoing and that some of them are willing to vote for the changes, but nobody has officially confirmed it.

During the weekend, VMRO DPMNE head Mickoski proposed two options for solving the post-referendum crisis – for the government to reject the name deal and hold early elections immediately, or to meet several other pre-conditions, such as the establishment of an interim government 100 days before the election, and appointing a new public prosecutor and a special commission to probe alleged irregularities during the September 30 referendum.

Social Democrat Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said earlier that if the parliament fails to adopt the constitutional changes then an early election will be held most probably on November 25.

Western politicians suggest that early elections are not a good choice and instead the government should work on securing support for the constitutional changes in the parliament.