Macedonia Albanian Parties Demand Constitutional Change

The fragile two-thirds majority in the Macedonian parliament for the ‘name’ agreement with Greece could be jeopardised by the demand by two small parties for a constitutional change to make Albanian an official language nationwide.

Two small ethnic Albanian opposition parties in Macedonia, the BESA movement and the Alliance for Albanians, insist that the changing of the constitution to implement the ‘name’ agreement with Greece is a good opportunity for additional changes that would improve the status of Albanians in the country.

They say their further support for the ‘name’ agreement, which would see the country’s name changed to the Republic of North Macedonia, depends on whether other parties accept their demands for a constitutional change that would make the Albanian language official across the entire country.

“We think that it is time that some of these political issues concerning Albanians be part of the debate and of course be adopted so that we can finally resolve them,” said MP Fadil Zendeli from BESA on Wednesday.

He said that BESA has already reached a deal with the Alliance for Albanians on the additional amendments they plan to submit to parliament this week.

The head of the Alliance for Albanians, Ziadin Sela, has previously stated that his party also wants changes to the constitution’s preamble so it would be clearly stated that the Albanians, as well as Macedonians, are constitutive peoples of the country.

Together these two small opposition parties have four MPs in the 120-seat parliament, which may prove crucial during further rounds of voting on the ‘name’ agreement.

The biggest ethnic Albanian party in parliament, the junior ruling Democratic Union for Integration, DUI, said it had no intention to endanger the ‘name’ process with additional demands.

“We think that this process is an absolute priority. We have worked 17 years to reach this point and we will not endanger this process with any additional demands,” said DUI MP Artan Grubi.

Grubi said that he is convinced that all MPs would understand the gravity of the situation and that “all the Albanian parties will support and vote for successful completion of the name agreement”.

Parliament last Friday passed the first phase of the implementation of the ‘name’ agreement. All the ethnic Albanian parties’ MPs voted in favour.

This helrped to reach the bare minimum of 80 legislators, a two-thirds majority, in favour of the government motion to start the procedure to change the constitution to allow the country’s name to become the Republic of North Macedonia – as required under the deal reached with Greece this summer.

But for the process to be complete by the end of the year, legislators will have to vote twice more.

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