During a series of meetings with ethnic Albanian opposition leaders on Tuesday, Zoran Zaev accepted further changes to the Constitution that severely eroded the position of the Macedonian nation in the Republic of Macedonia. The BESA and Alliance of Albanians parties said they will not vote to amend the Constitution and rename Macedonia into North Macedonia unless Albanians get even more of their demands out of the final deal, and without the two parties, Zaev would fall short of the required two thirds majority.
In essence, all the changes were quite nicely written in CIA’s Tirana Platform – these changes will give any minority in Macedonia the right to cede territory from the country.
One of the changes which Zaev agreed to alter is the Preamble of the Constitution, in the portion which begins with “The citizens of the Republic of Macedonia, the Macedonian people and the citizens who live in its borders and are part of the Albanian people, the Turkish people, the Vlach people, the Serbian people, the Roma people, the Bosniak people and the others, assuming the responsibility…”. In the future, under Zaev’s proposal, the mention of the word “citizens” in front of the minorities in Macedonia will be erased, indicating a stronger role for the minority communities in the country. The words “who live” will also be deleted, Zaev said.
The final version will be: The citizens of Macedonia, the Macedonian people, the Albanian people, the Turkish pepole, the Vlach people… This appropriately and substantially equalizes the citizens before their fatherland – the Republic of Macedonia, Zaev said following a meeting with Ziadin Sela, leader of the Alliance of Albanians.
Another change which Zaev agreed to is to alter Article 49 which regulates that the state will take care of the rights of its diaspora. It now mentions the “diaspora of the Macedonian people” and will, in the future, mention the diaspora of the other communities that live in Macedonia as well. Kosovo will also be mentioned in the Constitution as one of the five neighboring countries of Macedonia. Zaev expressed hope that these concessions will be enough for the Albanian parties to support the renaming of Macedonia into North Macedonia.
Following the meeting, Sela indicated that he is satisfied with the agreement and Zaev expressed his hope that this will be enough for BESA to also support the proposed amendments.
We discussed the demands of the Alliance of the Albanians. I’m happy to say that with the outcome of the coming few days, and with the vote in the Parliament, there will no longer be two categories of citizens as we had so far. As a party we contributed that all citizens feel equal and we continue to demand that Macedonia is part of NATO and EU, said Sela, also announcing additional demands such as an explicit mention of the Albanian language in the Constitution.
Zaev relies of votes from ethnic Albanians and on the ethnic Albanian parties to prop up his Government, as a significant majority of Macedonians rejects the proposed name change of the country. Poll after poll have shown that Macedonians refuse the proposed name “North Macedonia”, while ethnic Albanians, whose nationality would not be impacted by the name change, approve of it by a large percentage.
Another demand BESA and AA made is that the formula which Zaev accepted in his negotiations with Greece about the Macedonian nationality is thrown out. Zaev agreed that the nationality is identified as: Macedonian/citizen of the Republic of North Macedonia. Albanian parties want this to say just “citizen of the Republic of North Macedonia. Zaev today insisted that this will be resolved in the law passed to implement the constitutional amendments, which specifies that nationality refers only to citizenship and does not prejudge the ethnic background of the citizen.
There are still negotiations over this, the latest report is that Zaev has agreed that in documents one can put Albanian citizen of North Macedonia.