The Bulgarians may enter North Macecdonia’s Constitution with the Egyptians and 4 other Nations

Politics | May 31, 2023, Wednesday // 14:36
Bulgaria: The Bulgarians may enter North Macecdonia’s Constitution with the Egyptians and 4 other Nations @Wikimedia Commons

The Macedonian Ministry of Justice must send to the parliament the proposal for adding the Bulgarians in the constitution, a condition for the start of the negotiations on joining the European Union.

The text, as reported in the working group that prepared the constitutional changes, has already been submitted to the Ministry of Justice and it contains, in addition to the Bulgarians, five more "sections of peoples" to be added in an attempt to quell discontent with the new concession (as perceived by many citizens) of Macedonian sovereignty.

However, even this does not guarantee that North Macedonia will change its constitution: public opinion is overwhelmingly "against" and the opposition VMRO-DPMNE rules out any support, especially before the elections - in the summer of 2024 at the latest or interim. Changes to the constitution require two-thirds of the votes of the deputies (80 out of 120), and the government does not even have 65. Skopje is currently under intense pressure from the West, including the United States and the Netherlands, whose ambassador has angrily called on the country to fulfill its commitments.

Part of the delay before they reach parliament is due to technical procedures, including to translate the text into Albanian; then they must be approved at a government meeting.

"The Bulgarian dictate"

In an attempt to calm the tension caused by the topic in North Macedonia, Croats, Slovenes, Montenegrins, Jews and Egyptians are added together with the Bulgarians (Egyptians - this is how a part of the Roma define themselves, despite divergent comments on the topic among Macedonian historians).

The deadline for these changes is November, when the screening carried out by the European Commission must be completed and the Second Intergovernmental Conference must take place - in the Macedonian case, these are the substantive negotiations.

Macedonian Prime Minister Dimitar Kovachevski insists that the decision in the parliament is necessary for Skopje to continue on the path to the EU. "I hope all MPs will understand the importance of this decision and give their vote for the people." The leader of VMRO-DPMNE, Hristijan Mickoski, stated that if the amendments do not pass, it will mean the fall of the government and that under the current conditions, he will not accept the "Bulgarian dictate".

President Stevo Pendarovski stated yesterday that the procedure for changes should be started by law, even if a majority is not secured.

What exactly do they offer

The constitutional amendments were part of the so-called "French proposal" (by France as the then rotating president of the Council of the European Union), with which Bulgaria and North Macedonia tied compliance with several Bulgarian conditions to a European negotiation process. In Sofia, it was pointed out that the Bulgarian conditions, which led to the veto of the negotiations and heated up the tension, officially became European. In Skopje, the opposition and some Macedonians took it as another concession.

In the preamble of the constitution, after the Bosnian people, the Bulgarian, Croatian, Montenegrin, Slovenian, Jewish, Egyptian peoples are added, said judge Margarita Tsatsa Nikolovska, chairperson of the Human Rights Institute, after the last meeting of the working group.

The preamble states who are the citizens of North Macedonia: these are the Macedonian people and all the designated "sections of peoples" who have equal rights and responsibilities and who decide to establish the "Republic of (North) Macedonia as an independent, sovereign state, with the intention to establish and strengthen the rule of law", human rights and others.

Another change is an addition in Art. 49 - after Bosniaks - of the same sequence of peoples. It says that "the republic takes care of the diaspora of the Macedonian people and part of the Macedonian people, the Turkish people, the Wallachian people, the Serbian people, the Roma people, the Bosnian people and others and nurtures and develops the ties with the homeland". At the same time (as the next paragraph in Article 49 indicates) "the republic will not interfere in the sovereign rights of other countries and in their internal affairs".

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Tags: constitution, Macedonian, Bulgarians, Egyptian

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