8 February, 2019 - 15:07
“A historical date”, “a century-old dream come true”, “the greatest achievement since the independence of Macedonia” – these were only some of the comments about probably one of the three most important weeks and dates in Macedonia’s recent history. The first, of course, was the signing of the Prespa Agreement regarding the new name, the second was the vote on the constitutional changes (again for the new name), and the third was the signing of the Accession Protocol – a “seat at the NATO table”.
We should not be fooled by the speed with which we came to the stage from the signing of the agreement with Greece to coming very close to Macedonia becoming the 30th member of the largest military alliance in the world.
However, as in every battle, like this one, huge sacrifices must be made.
“No one asked me how I reached the required two-thirds majority in Parliament, from only 49 MPs after the elections.” This comment was made by Prime Minister Zoran Zaev on whether he had to make compromises. The man who everyone says was the drive behind all the changes in Macedonia managed to secure another 32 MPs on top of his own, to enact the law on amnesty which pardoned those who stormed the Parliament and injured his mouth and head. Additionally, he had to make concessions with opposition MPs to ensure the constitutional changes passed and open the way to the “road to NATO”.
Always looking to a higher goal, Zaev had to endure blows which were underhand and more of a danger than the physical blows then.
The general public is still recovering from all the shocks and is wondering whether the price that included the partial maneuvering of the state of law (and, nevertheless, to make everything to be in accordance with the law and with no interference in the judicial power) was not too high and in the long term, more dangerous for the country’s health.
NATO membership enjoys, unlike some other things, almost unison support from the citizens of the (not for long) Republic of Macedonia. The treaties with Bulgaria and Greece and the fast track to the EU are still encountering many opponents, but NATO and Union membership, as shown in the polls, have huge support in society and political parties in general.
There are also marginal parties (such as “United Macedonia” led by Janko Bachev, which is said to have direct influence from Russia) and individuals who support Moscow’s view that Macedonia is being forcefully pushed into NATO against the will of the people and that the constitution is being violated, but without much strength in their support.
NATO membership is part of Macedonia’s frustration since 2008 and the Alliance’s Summit in Bucharest when in the last minute, Greece blocked an almost ready membership invitation under the name Republic of Macedonia (Skopje). The Macedonian delegation returned with the heads hung low, as did the Americans, who, before the summit, believed that the Greek veto would not be realized.
Eleven years later, the country is on NATO’s doorstep as its 30th member under another name, with very different internal dynamics and relations and with another reality in its surrounding.