Towards the EU: North Macedonia starts the Debate for including Bulgarians in the Constitution
With 70 votes "for", 47 "against" and not a single "abstention", the Macedonian deputies adopted the agenda of their 123rd meeting with a single item - the changes to include Bulgarians in the constitution, which should open the way to negotiations with the European Union.
The addition of the so-called parts of nations in the constitution in this case is not limited to the Bulgarians, but includes five more communities. However, it creates tension; public opinion is against it, the opposition insists that it will not secure the necessary majority with comments about a "Bulgarian dictate" behind the condition that the government committed to last year according to a proposal by the French rotating presidency to end the dispute with Bulgaria.
The cabinet insists that only this vote can open the way for negotiations with the EU; the aim is to do this in the autumn, after the screening of the Macedonian legislation by Brussels has been completed.
If, however, 61 out of 120 votes were needed for today's voting on the agenda, two-thirds of the votes (80 out of 120) are needed for the adoption of the amendments to the basic law, with which the Bulgarians will be included.
Judging by today's vote, the supporters of the constitutional amendments will need at least 10 more votes, and mainly from the opposition VMRO-DPMNE, whose leader is not backing down and insists that the only proposal of the authorities that he would accept is early elections. Today, Prime Minister Dimitar Kovachevski told the parliament that the proposal is Macedonian "with the support of the EU and the USA" and does not threaten the Macedonian identity in any way.
According to the Rules of Procedure of the Assembly, the debate will last a maximum of 10 working days, i.e. it can last until August 31 at the latest.
The procedure provides for a clearly fixed time in which individual MPs can speak, including to regulate the maximum duration.
It has three phases:
- With the first, with a two-thirds majority, the constitution will be changed;
- The second, which requires 61 deputies, is to approve the draft amendments;
- The third involves adopting the specific amendments with a two-thirds majority. Between the second and third phases, there will be a debate with a maximum duration of 30 days.
At the same time, at least 21 of the 40 deputies who do not belong to the Macedonian ethnic majority must vote for a change.
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