By Sinisa Jakov Marusic
The Macedonia government submitted to parliament four draft constitutional amendments whose adoption is needed so the country can implement its historic ‘name’ agreement with Greece.
The government submitted the draft constitutional amendments to parliament on Friday, launching the second of the three phases in the process to adopt the ‘name’ agreement that would unblock the country’s path towards NATO and EU membership.
Тhe first draft amendment envisages the addition of the adjective ‘North’ to the name of the country, as stipulated in the ‘name’ agreement.
The second draft amendment envisages changes in the constitution’s introductory statement that would reaffirm the foundations of Macedonia’s statehood in more detail and remove any Greek concerns about possible irredentism, Prime Minister Zoran Zaev explained.
The constitution’s introductory statement will also mention the Ohrid Framework Agreement, which ended a brief armed conflict with ethnic Albanian insurgents in 2001.
The third draft stipulates that the country that the country respects the territorial integrity, sovereignty and political independence of its neighbours.
The final draft amendment concerns articles in the constitution that cover what the country does for its diaspora.
Zaev explained that this text will be realigned according to European standards so that it addresses Athens’s worries about possible irredentism and interference Greece’s internal affairs.
“The four amendments are fairly simple. One part of the public feared that this will be a complicated process which will endanger [Macedonian] identity. Now that we are disclosing the amendments, we are completely removing those worries,” Zaev told a press conference on Friday.
Zaev said that during the preparation of the drafts, the majority consulted many of the opposition MPs whose votes are crucial, and incorporated many of their suggestions, mainly those offering additional guarantees on Macedonian identity.
The four draft amendments will be debated in parliament starting from next week. Debates in the parliamentary commissions and at a plenary session are expected to last for around 30 days. After this, the drafts will be put to a vote.
Unlike on October 19, when parliament had to pass the first phase of the implementation of the ‘name’ agreement with a two-thirds majority, the voting in the second phase will require only a simple majority of 61 MPs in the 120-seat parliament.
During the parliamentary debate, NPs will have the chance to file further amendments to the four drafts and Zaev said that the government will be willing to incorporate them if they are in the spirit of the ‘name’ agreement.
“We are talking to other [opposition] MPs for greater support,” he added.
If the second phase passes off successfully, the government will have a green light to prepare the final constitutional amendments which will also have to be debated in parliament for at least 30 days before a third and final vote that will again require a two-thirds majority.
All this is expected to be finished by the end of the year or in January at the latest so that parliament in Athens can then also ratify the ‘name’ agreement ahead of elections in Greece.