What does today’s agreement between VMRO-DPMNE and the opposition mean for Macedonia’s future? Ivana Jordanovska shares her thoughts.
There are three types of people when it comes to political participation. The first are those who care about the political situation in their country as much as they care about the political situation on Pluto, the non-planet. The second type is the kind that is into politics full time: these people enter the fight and are prepared to lose everything for the things they believe in, be it elections, aid for refugees or getting the truth in the news. Then there’s the third type: willing to diabolize every effort made by members of the second type, while being terrified of leading the fight themselves. Imagine how annoying they become whenever an agreement of historical importance is reached.
In the early hours of July 14th, 60 days since the setting up of the opposition camp in front of the government, an agreement was reached between the main political actors of Macedonia. The political crisis initiated by the publication of illegally wire-tapped conversations has been put on track towards resolution by mediation of the European Union and with US assistance.
The agreement itself contains several key stipulations and steps leading to early parliamentary elections in April 2016. Chronologically speaking, the first step is for the opposition to return to parliament in September. In October, new ministers for the Interior as well as Labour and Social Affairs will be nominated by SDSM, after a consultation with VMRO-DPMNE and DUI. Their deputy ministers will be nominated by VMRO-DPMNE. The deputy ministers for Finance, Agriculture and Information Society and Administration will be nominated by SDSM. All deputy ministers will have the full right to review and veto in their respective Ministries in all legal, financial and personnel matter related to the organization of the elections. The current government will submit its resignation by December, with the above mentioned Ministerial and Deputy Ministerial appointees maintaining their positions. The new government must be sworn in 100 days before the elections and will be headed by a Prime Minister nominated by VMRO-DPMNE. In addition, a mutually-agreed Special Prosecutor will investigate the wire-tapped conversations released by SDSM.
The reactions to the agreement have varied from ecstatic to downright pessimistic. Many say that the time allocated for the preparation of the elections is too short, that there is no census foreseen before the elections, and that VMRO-DPMNE retains significant influence over the government with the nomination of the new Prime Minister and the veto power in key ministries.
I agree with this. The result of the negotiations alone will not ensure the rule of law, civic participation or guarantees for not repeating the mistakes of the past nine years. You know why? Because that is our job, not the EU’s.
The EU cannot dictate the resignation of Gruevski, judicial processes against key individuals in the government or the start of the census. If it could, we would still be in the 19th century and it would not be the EU but the Holy European Empire. What the EU could do, and I’m happy to see it did, is to mediate and lead the process of negotiations. This means that the EU takes into account both sides and tries to gain concessions on both sides, all the while dangling a carrot and swinging the stick over their heads.
As for the negotiations, it’s important to remember the goal of negotiating, which is reaching a compromise. It’s not about winning or losing, it’s about meeting each other half-way. No side will be entirely satisfied and not all of the demands will be met. It is also essential to developed democracies. In other words, it is the opposite of the Balkan ‘inat’, a ferocious mix of stupidity and stubbornness, where you either win and impose your own rules or you lose and bear the shame of being weaker.
You don’t agree with the concept of negotiations? Then there were two options for you. You could’ve organized a violent gang and tried to storm the government building in the hope to succeed in the coup d’état and impose your own rules. Or you could have waited until the next elections to try and get in power, bearing in mind that in that case they will be once again organized by VMRO-DPMNE. Which one sounds like a smarter solution? Exactly: neither.
Could we have reached a better agreement? I don’t know, and anyone who was not present at the negotiating table and says otherwise is lying. As bystanders, we like to think we could have done better, as long as we shy away from the responsibility of actually sitting at the negotiating table.
Will it secure the fall of Gruevski? Maybe yes, maybe no. He will resign, but it is the job of SDSM and all the members of the united opposition to win the uphill battle of getting the country back on track. And not only before the elections in April, but also after, being fully aware that Gruevski can and probably will use all of his dirty tricks. We will need to go step by step and fix every area of public life that has been demolished in the past nine years. That is not going to happen in two, twelve or twenty months. It will take years.
Should we celebrate? No. Should we mourn? No. We should roll up our sleeves and make the most of this chance to save our country. We have not won the war, but we have been given the chance for yet another battle.
Gruevski came to power on July 5th, 2006. A couple of months later, somewhere in the heart of Italy, some grapes were to become the wine I intend to open when Gruevski steps down. The big 1-0 is fast approaching.
For more on the Macedonian agreement, read Artan Sadiku’s contribution.
Cover photo credit: Lily Lynch/Balkanist