The bitter pills
Writes: Aleksandar Krzalovski
No, this text will not deal with the ex-prime minister’s escape. The euphoria and the public outburst of anger from that act, if it’s not a nine days wonder, it begins to shed after ten days and we slowly return to the other important topics that preoccupied us before that escape, and of course did not escape, and even less resolved themselves, but on the contrary – remain on the agenda.
Here, above all, I am referring to the procedure for amending the Constitution. After the announcement of the proposed changes in the two competent committees in the Assembly, we are awaiting the public discussion (which may have ended, without debate, while we were dealing with the escape), and then at the plenary session of the Assembly for the adoption of the Draft Amendments. Given the required majority of 61 votes in this phase, there is no doubt that the ruling parties will pass this stage, and there will be the final and main part of the debate before the second (and final) vote on the Draft Amendments by the end of December or, more likely, in January.
For this, it will be necessary (as on October 19) that a two-thirds majority, or 80 votes “in favour” of each of the proposed amendments. Given the first such vote and the secured 80 votes, it seems that it will be the same the second time, that the eight opposition MPs will vote this time the same way. It is also anticipated that some other MPs will adhere to the majority, so it should not be such a problem to secure the required majority as it was the first time.
But the way, the number of 80 MPs was reached late that evening on October 19, after postponing the beginning of the session three times (it was scheduled to be held at 11 a.m., 3 p.m. or at 9 p.m.), as well as the conditions that the eight opposition MPs announced after the vote, opened dilemmas in public whether it was a matter of voting according to their own conviction or some agreement with the government. And their very reference to the “Prime Minister’s call for reconciliation”, in the appearance in the Assembly a few days earlier, provoked various interpretations and discussions about what it implied – reconciliation or pardon. The word amnesty was then avoided and it was quickly denied that it was a matter of any amnesty under the call for reconciliation, but we see that these days not only is it used but is also actively discussed and it becomes relatively indisputable that there will be some kind of amnesty, different grades or categories are being made (whether it will be for the “April 27th” case or more widely, only for those who entered the Assembly, but did not do any violence or for all participants in the events that day, etc.). Gruevski’s escape only “added fuel to the fire”, with instant theories (of conspiracy) that this was part of the agreement for the 8 votes in the Assembly.
The opposition party accuses for an attempt for selective justice (with an allusion agreement – amnesty in return for votes, only for those MPs who voted “in favour” of the Prespa Agreement) and requires full amnesty. On the other hand, the supporters of the ruling SDSM, especially the participants in the “colourful revolution” in which an important slogan was “no justice, no peace”, refuse to accept any thought of any amnesty. They consider that the procedure for constitutional changes must not be at the cost of “avoiding or evading justice” that is, enabling the release of all those who took part in the events of 27 April 2017 and the determination of their guilt in that (with, of course, imposing appropriate penalties thereafter). Moreover, some of them think that we cannot be part of the EU and NATO by violating the principles of the rule of law and justice.
Now, this argument reminded me of the summer debates on the Prespa Treaty and especially the referendum campaign. Only then, these arguments were used by those who were against the Prespa Agreement.
Namely, in addition to patriotic/nationalistic reasons (in the sense of “we won’t give up on our name”) or party loyalty (over time, between the signing of agreement and the referendum, there was visible homogenization, that is, an inclination towards the party’s position in both camps, conditionally referred to as “in favour of” and “against” the agreement), there were arguments that the content of the Prespa Agreement is inconsistent (and perhaps contrary to, or violates) some of the fundamental European values. For example, the rule of law – the Prespa treaty does not take into account (although it refers to them), and in some parts is contrary to the previous agreement with Greece (since 1995), the judgment of the International Court of Justice in The Hague, and the Charter of the United Nations itself. Furthermore, justice – it is not just, from the aforementioned disregard of rulings, to asymmetry (provisions that are binding on Macedonia, do not apply to Greece). The disrespect of the right to self-determination is already clear for everyone, although, interestingly, the Greek government “defends itself” precisely with that principle, under which it could not forbid us to use the name of the language (so it “ceded” on that point) but here it was – it could have deprived us of the right to the name of the state according to the same principle. Finally, the entire case, and the agreement itself, can be classified as a classic example of discrimination, which I believe the top authorities in this field in our country also agree with – according to the European definition of discrimination, Macedonia has been deprived of the right to association/association (in this case – joining the EU and NATO membership), not because of the achievements (the European Commission recommended starting the negotiations nine times – that is, we have met the criteria for it), but for some personal (in this case group/national) characteristic (name of state/nation/majority ethnic community). And I agree that these are very valid (and European) arguments against the agreement.
In that period, we could often hear the phrase that the Prespa Agreement is a “bitter pill” that we must swallow in order to achieve the strategic goals for EU and NATO membership. That is, those who used it (including occasionally the direct participants in the negotiations) felt that the Contract was not the most favourable, that it was far from ideal, but that a better one could not be achieved at this point in history and that it must be accepted to go further. And here I think it was the main breaking in each of us individually with regard to the referendum – whether to swallow the bitter pill for the purpose of “healing” as a society and join the Western European alliances or to seek another solution or “medicine”. Personally, I went to the polls (because I consider it to be one of the European values - to personally participate in the elections and thus to make decisions), but I thought it the pill was too bitter to vote “in favour”, or with others words it was not acceptable for me to “go towards the EU, in a non-European way”.
Some month later, interestingly, it seems that there is a large part of the people who decided on September 30th to go out and vote “for a European Macedonia” that are in a similar situation. Now they are facing the same dilemma, if the price for the approval of the agreement in the Assembly is an amnesty (for anything – from taking part in the crowd on April 27th through “the crime of the regime”, to the momentous opening of the doors of the Parliament – that is, whether the deputies who opened the gates of the Parliament on April 27th, will be pardoned/amnestied, to open the gates of Europe by their vote). And whether it will be acceptable for them, or it will be too bitter of a pill to swallow. Public performances to a large extent (if not fully) are on the side of not accepting such a “deal”. And it is clear, because such an act would stifle the principle of the rule of law… or same as above – one would go towards the EU by breaching of the European values. I can understand them too, so even for me such a solution is unacceptable.
But, since we continued with the constitutional changes despite the result of the referendum, it seems that the Government is determined to fulfil its part of the obligations and to do everything necessary so that those changes are voted in the Parliament, even if that means some kind of amnesty for someone (especially for some of those eight MPs from the opposition who have already voted “in favour”). And maybe that’s good – since the bitter pill has already been swallowed after the referendum, it is also necessary to swallow this one – for the same goal, to finally become part of the EU and NATO (the malicious ones would say, “If you are not for amnesty, then you are not for EU and NATO”). In fact, the established Commission for Reconciliation is already working on this, and some kind of proposal is announced in this regard in the middle of December. It will come quickly, so we’ll see.
Maybe all this is for the better. I am not very confident in the correctness of the proceedings (both when concluding the agreement and the referendum, as well as the possible amnesty), but it may indeed lead us to some kind of reconciliation – as the Agreement should “reconcile” us with Greece, the eventual “forgiveness” (for April 27th or more than that) will reconcile the quarrelling party (and not only party) camps in the country. Or what Chancellor Merkel would say “it is good when both sides are equally dissatisfied”, that is, when both of them will swallow their bitter pills!
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