By Misko Taleski
Parliament voted in a new government late Thursday night (July 28th), a coalition between VMRO-DPMNE and the Albanian Democratic Union for Integration (DUI).
The government consists mostly of the same ministers prior to the June 5th early elections, some of whom have now been rotated to different ministerial positions.
“The leaders of the two ruling parties, Nikola Gruevski and Ali Ahmeti, are evidently satisfied with the ministers’ work and view them as very dependable,” political analyst Vladimir Bozhinovski told SETimes.
“Gruevski understood that ministers are needed who are good managers and whose profession does not have to be in the same field as the ministries they manage,” Bozhinovski added.
The coalition partners easily agreed, at least publicly, to the new ministerial set up.
DUI’s position, despite the ethnic fear mongering by the opposition in the media, stands roughly where it was before the early elections. It got five ministerial and two deputy prime minister positions.
For the first time since Macedonia declared independence, an Albanian, Fatmir Besimi, will serve as the country’s defence minister. DUI’s picks will also lead the ministries of local government, environment, economy and justice.
DUI also received the much sought after position of deputy prime minister for EU integration.
Gruevski placed a trusted albeit young diplomat — former Ambassador to the EU Nikola Popovski — in the role of foreign minister.
He also tapped a highly successful Harvard-educated entrepreneur, Bill Pavleski, to be a new minister without portfolio tasked with attracting foreign investment. The pick is in line with the new government’s priorities — increasing foreign investments and reducing unemployment.
“The economic policy is to maintain Macedonia’s status as a country with the lowest taxes in Europe and to reduce unemployment below 25%. There will also be investments in education through which we want to improve the labour market,” VMRO member of parliament Vlatko Gjorchev told SETimes.
The opposition criticised Gruevski’s agreement with Ahmeti to amend the law for the use of languages, law on the use of flags, and the law for amnesty of the Albanian’s National Liberation Army (NLA), in order to form the coalition government.
The amended law on languages — passed through an expedited procedure — stipulates that in addition to parliamentarians, the minority ministers and other officials can use their mother tongues in addressing parliament or parliamentary commissions.
While SDSM strongly criticised the law saying it betrays the Macedonian national interest, one of its leaders, Professor Ljubmor Frckovski, argued otherwise.
“The law for Albanians to speak their language in parliament, regardless of whether they come from the legislative or executive branch, is in the spirit of the Ohrid Framework Agreement,” Frckovski said.
The law on the use of flags stipulates that in municipalities where 50% of the population belongs to a particular ethnic community, they can place their national flag together with the flag of Macedonia but it must be smaller by at least a third.
The most fervent reaction, however, was to the law on amnesty, which stops criminal prosecution of four cases against the NLA leadership — many of whom are DUI members — for war crimes and other grave breaches of international law. The Hague tribunal sent the cases to be tried in Macedonia.
While the government faces numerous challenges, the name dispute with Greece is the biggest. The future positioning of Macedonia now depends in good measure on the skill and ability of the new Foreign Minister Popovski to deal with that issue.
“He will continue the existing policy, as I see no indication the strategy [to protect the name] will change. In politics, skill is preferred to youth but if the prime minister assessed that the new people in his cabinet are competent, that is his choice,” analyst Jove Kekenovski said.