ISSN 2330-717X

North Macedonia Minister Faces Sack For ‘Name’ Provocation


Labour Minister Rashela Mizrahi risks being fired from the caretaker government for refusing to use the country’s new official name during press conferences.

By Sinisa Jakov Marusic

North Macedonia’s Prime Minister, Oliver Spasovski, on Wednesday moved to axe Labour Minister Rashela Mizrahi from the caretaker government for her refusal to use the country’s new official name in a press conference.

“The PM and the government have an obligation to secure protection of the constitution,” the government said on Wednesday.

“Having in mind that minister Mizrahi is consciously and deliberately breaching the constitution, and thus endangering the Euro-Atlantic future of the country, the PM has submitted a proposal for the dismissal of the technical minister… to parliament,” it added.

Mizrahi, who comes from main right-wing opposition VMRO DPMNE party, provoked a storm last weekend within the government – and with Greece – by standing in front of a plaque bearing the country’s old name, Republic of Macedonia, at a press conference.

On Tuesday, she added more heat to the situation when she said that she has no intention of changing the plaque bearing the old name and replacing it with a plaque with the new name, Republic of North Macedonia. “I am prepared to pay a fine if it comes to that,” Mizrahi said.

The country changed its name, adding a geographical qualifier, as a direct result of the historic June 2018 agreement with Greece, which in return ceased to object to its neighbour joining NATO and the European Union. North Macedonia is currently waiting for the EU to set a start date for accession talks.

The ruckus happened just ahead of April general elections in which the main ruling Social Democrats, SDSM, who engineered the deal with Greece, will compete with the VMRO DPMNE party, which opposed the deal.

But the motion for dismissal could complicate matters within the caretaker government, as Mizrahi is one of a number of VMRO DPMNE ministers drafted into the caretaker government at the start of the year.

Its formation stems from the 2015 “Przino” political agreement, when the main parties agreed that 100 days ahead of every election, a caretaker government would be established to ensure a fair vote and remove doubts about ballot-rigging and political pressures.

Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov first asked for her dismissal on Sunday, saying he had received a verbal note of protest from Athens over her actions. Dimitrov himself signed the historic accord with Greece aimed at ending the long dispute over Macedonia’s name.

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The Balkan Insight (fornerkt the Balkin Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN) is a close group of editors and trainers that enables journalists in the region to produce in-depth analytical and investigative journalism on complex political, economic and social themes. BIRN emerged from the Balkan programme of the Institute for War & Peace Reporting, IWPR, in 2005. The original IWPR Balkans team was mandated to localise that programme and make it sustainable, in light of changing realities in the region and the maturity of the IWPR intervention. Since then, its work in publishing, media training and public debate activities has become synonymous with quality, reliability and impartiality. A fully-independent and local network, it is now developing as an efficient and self-sustainable regional institution to enhance the capacity for journalism that pushes for public debate on European-oriented political and economic reform.

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