With the signed Agreement with Greece and with the change of the Constitution, a major step forward was made in Macedonia’s efforts to become a member of the EU and NATO.
Zoran Zaev, while explaining the agreement in Parliament, said: “This is the beginning of the end of the uncertainty that threatened Macedonia… And I am ready to pay the political price for it.”
A similar statement was made by the Greek prime minister these days. In his address at the event “Progressive Alliance for Democratic and Social Europe” he said:
“Through this agreement, we have contributed to the establishment of peaceful coexistence, solidarity, cooperation, friendship and peace in the wider region, but also among our peoples.
Progressive forces and progressive governments, when taking responsibility, then prove that together they can solve problems for a better future for peoples and the region, especially for the Balkans, where the main perception was not compromise and consensus, but nationalist hatred and conflict.
I do not mean the figures, but the political forces in Greece and in North Macedonia, who joined in the attempt to fight against the dominant rhetoric of nationalism, quasi-patriotism, impression, emotion, to give a solution for the perspective of the nations, for the future. We prove something very, very important. In practice, we prove that when there are progressive governments and forces that have the courage and do not hesitate at the political cost of defending values, then the whole known history of the Balkans can be marginalized and history written about the past, but in mainly on the present and the future of the nations.”
Tsipras and Zaev received a number of congratulations from the most important political leaders in the world after ratifying the agreement in the two countries’ parliaments.
The key words expressed in the agreement are that Zaev and Tsipras have reached a “historic agreement” that the agreement is a “victory of reason over nationalism” and an example of political courage and vision.
In his congratulations to the two leaders, European Council President Donald Tusk, for instance, said: “They had imagination, took risks, and were ready to sacrifice their interests for greater good. Zoran, Alexis – well done. Impossible mission completed successfully “.
The winner of World War II, Winston Churchill, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1953, lost the first elections after the end of the war in 1945 and had to leave the prime ministerial post.
Hence, the question arises as to the political price that Tsipras and Zaev will pay in the next elections, which will be set by those who do not want to leave old nationalist positions and who cannot forgive this success.In both countries, elections will be held in four months. In May in Greece will be voted for the election of lawmakers in the European Parliament, and will also hold a vote for local governments. In May, Macedonia will hold presidential elections, but also the election of mayors in Ohrid, Novo Selo, and Debar.
It will be the first test for Tsipras and Zaev to check their political support and see what happens with the election mood after the signed agreement.
Public opinion polls in Greece show that there are no significant changes in the ratings of political parties since January 2018 to date and that for other reasons, and not because of the agreement with Macedonia, Syriza lags behind the New Democracy with 8-10 percent in its rating. The elections for the European Parliament and the local elections for Tsipras will in fact not be the right test, since whatever happens on them, there is nothing essential to change in terms of the ratified agreement with Macedonia.
Opinion polls in Macedonia for presidential elections have not yet started, and neither the candidates for future president of Macedonia, nor the election mood are known. But the elections for future President of Macedonia are of far greater importance to the country than the elections in Greece for MPs in the European Parliament.
In May, Macedonia will decide whether to elect a person as president who will continue the policy of the current President Gjorge Ivanov, or will elect a person who, from the position of head of the state, will support the agreement with Greece and will be part of the policy that receives all the congratulations and praises of the democratic leaders in the world.
Macedonia will show in May whether the majority of voters are on the side of policies that secure peace with their neighbors, that open the doors to NATO and the European Union, and insure the social and inter-ethnic cohesion of the country, or the majority still considers it not enough regarding the acceptance of the name North Macedonia, and that this government should be punished according to what the nationalists propagate: “They sold their name to the Greeks, the language to the Albanians and our history the Bulgarians.”
The presidential elections in Macedonia will be another tough battle for the hearts and minds of voters, and it will probably run relentlessly with the same methods that the nationalist forces from the time of Gruevski kept the people in fear and isolation with numerous manipulations and fake news.
But there will be no justification for Zaev’s team and for the parliamentary majority in the current Parliament if, for any reason, through these elections they do not provide support for the bold vision and the steps they have taken in resolving disputes with neighbors and in the construction of Macedonia as a society of equal citizens.
Why is this so important?
The political price that Tsipras would pay by losing the European elections in Greece has nothing to change in the internal or foreign politics of Greece, for one simple reason – because it is a stable democracy.
The political price that Zaev would pay with the loss of the presidential election in Macedonia will be much higher. This may mean announcing the return of power to the authoritarian regime of Gruevski, only without Gruevski, and jeopardizing the whole process of democratization and pacification of the country.
For Macedonia and the international community, it will not be whether the future Presidency of Macedonia will continue the policy of Zaev, Dimitrov, Sekerinska and Osmani, that is, all of the current parliamentary majority, or will continue the politics of Ivanov, Gruevski Mickoski, Gjorcev, Apasiev and Bacev who only see darkness in Macedonia. And who promise to do everything in their power to “turn back the wheel of history.”
Hence, the price of a relaxed attitude towards policies that want to reduce the difficult solution to the decades-long dispute with Greece to betrayal and ignorance can be too high. That cost does not leave room for comfort of the parliamentary majority and risky games like “Each party with its own presidential candidate”.