The "French" Proposal Shook the Macedonian Government, Kovachevski Hardened his Tone
The French presidency's proposal to resolve the dispute shook the Macedonian government after three small parties threatened to leave if the cabinet approved a draft sent to the Bulgarian parliament to end the dispute between Skopje and Sofia.
The Left Democratic Union, the green DOM (Democratic Renewal for Macedonia) and the Liberal Democratic Party announced one after the other for several hours that they would step down because of the "unacceptable" document.
The reason is that while in Bulgaria President Rumen Radev considers insufficient the guarantees in the documents on the "French" proposal (and especially the bilateral protocol), in North Macedonia the opposition and these allies of the government see too great concessions from Skopje.
"The whole history needs to be changed"
Even the mere mention, in the draft of a negotiating framework, of the Macedonian language and giving Bulgaria the right to unilaterally express its position that the language does not exist was perceived as a "red line". This unleashed the tensions that existed at the beginning of the veto crisis and those in the public space around the Prespa Treaty with Greece over the constantly repeated notion that "language and identity are not negotiated".
The three parties are small but would be enough to level the playing field in parliament: 60 to 60 deputies. Currently, the majority of Prime Minister Dimitar Kovachevski is 64 people.
And there, as in Bulgaria, suggestions about the content of the documents appeared in the public space: for example, that North Macedonia must completely revise its history, including because of the reference in the protocol to Art. 8 of the Good Neighborly Agreement for the need for objective work with historical sources and others.
"I cannot accept the whole history we studied in primary and secondary school, to now change it and prove that it is a false history imposed on us by the Communists," LDP chairman Goran Milevski said in an interview. "If the government accepts the French proposal as it is, I will resign irrevocably as a member of the government," he said.
And from other wings in the ruling Social Democratic Union. "We must not give up Macedonianism," said former SDSM prime minister and president Branko Crvenkovski, as the "French" proposal would open Pandora's box with more demands from Bulgaria and seek a compromise on "our identity and history."
Such thesis could not be defended: "We are not negotiating for identity, we will negotiate for history," Crvenkovski added.
The Macedonian Prime Minister continues to claim that no official document has yet been received by the government of North Macedonia. Yesterday, however, he wrote on Facebook that whatever the final text is, some elements are key to making it acceptable:
- clear wording on the Macedonian language and protection of the Macedonian identity (in the framework the Macedonian language is not present as a topic but as a clarification of how the documents will be translated into it);
- historical issues cannot be criteria in the negotiating framework (they are not, although the text refers to the Good Neighborly Agreement);
- negotiations between North Macedonia and the EU must begin before the constitutional process;
- clear guarantees that Bulgaria will have no more requests;
- any decision to be consulted with the institutions of North Macedonia.
The "French" proposal currently envisions the constitutional procedure being completed by the intergovernmental conference, at which real talks will begin, and before that there will be a political intergovernmental conference, at which Skopje will learn about the actual steps in the talks.
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