site.btaOsmani: Constitutional Amendments Give Opposition Chance to Back Important Strategic Decision
"The frequent elections in Bulgaria are among the factors that affect adversely bilateral relations and the European dynamics of the Republic of North Macedonia", North Macedonia's Foreign Minister Bujar Osmani said in an interview on Telma TV on Tuesday.
He specified that in the two and a half years since he took office he will be working with a sixth Bulgarian foreign minister "which does not leave enough time to build a relationship of personal and institutional trust." However, he said, "it is much easier to talk to politicians who have a clear political mandate" because the caretaker cabinet is committed to "keeping certain issues until the regular government steps in".
Osmani believes that the procedure for amending the country's Constitution should wait until a leadership meeting between Prime Minister Dimitar Kovachevski and the Chairman of the opposition VMRO-DPMNE, Hristijan Mickoski. "It would be good if this meeting produces a positive outcome because the opposition may miss a historic opportunity at least once in recent years to contribute to important strategic processes that bring progress and stability to the country," the Foreign Minister argued.
Regardless of the outcome of Wednesday's leadership meeting, however, the proposed constitutional changes will be tabled in Parliament.
"The first time I heard the idea about constitutional amendments and the inclusion of Bulgarians in the Constitution as a way of solving the problem with relations with Bulgaria was from a ranking member of VMRO-DPMNE. People from VMRO-DPMNE who understand the process say the same. But there are also those who follow the opinion polls and think that they will get more votes if they 'ride' the momentary emotion based on propaganda, conspiracy, fake news and instilling fear in citizens," Osmani said, clarifying that Bulgaria cannot add new conditions to the accession negotiating framework because "it is closed" and has been approved by the 27 EU Member States and is non-renegotiable.
"The constitutional changes are a condition for [North Macedonia's] further progress towards the EU, but they are also the best formal confirmation of our position regarding the Bulgarian minority in this country. In formal terms, we have a majority Macedonian people and we have parts of other peoples living here on equal terms, including the Bulgarian community," Osmani said.
The Foreign Minister recalled that the Government's proposal to the opposition, which is pressing for early elections, "is still on the table": if VMRO-DPMNE vote in favour of the constitutional amendments, the country's parliament should be dissolved on that same day and early parliamentary elections should be called.
In Osmani's words, North Macedonia will seek unofficial clear guarantees from EU Member States that the roadmap and the action plan will be adopted before the constitutional changes procedure has been completed.
"I would not proceed with a vote on the constitutional amendments until I get at least informal support for the action plan because I do not want to open another topic after the constitutional changes. After that, we enter the home stretch, we open the first negotiating chapter. On the basis of the screening report, we draw up a roadmap and an action plan, which all EU Member States have to approve. We will certainly get guarantees that it will be approved before we complete the process of constitutional changes," Osmani said.
Asked whether Bulgaria could raise the issue of hate speech, the interviewee said he could not deny the existence of hate speech but it was confined to social media on which the State could not impose sanctions, and it was "important not to have it at the institutional level", while Kovachevski's remark that "Bulgaria's discourse towards North Macedonia is similar to Russia's discourse towards Ukraine" was prompted by "individual statements of individual Bulgarian politicians and did not refer to the whole of Bulgarian politics".