Friday, July 06, 2018

Macedonia to receive NATO membership invitation: defence minister

Macedonia deputy prime minister and defense minister Radmila Sekerinska announced Tuesday that Macedonia would receive an invitation to join NATO next week.

According to Sekerinska, the membership invitation to Macedonia will be extended in Brussels during the summit scheduled for July 11 and 12.

Meanwhile, the Macedonian government adopted the strategic defence review (SDR) earlier on Tuesday.

"It took one year to complete the SDR, which is an ambitious and crucial document that defines defense and its development, as well as the defense agenda of the country," underlined Sekerinska.

The new SDR takes into consideration the new global challenges, and is the result of an overall consultation with institutions related to defense, including the president, according to Sekerinska. Enditem

Greek defence minister: no ratification for Macedonia deal

The head of the Greek government’s junior coalition partner said Tuesday he will not allow a deal the country recently made with neighboring Macedonia over the latter’s name to be ratified until it has voter approval, either through general elections or a referendum.

The statements by Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, who is the head of the right-wing Independent Greeks party, indicate he is prepared to bring down the coalition government over the deal that renames Greece’s northern neighbor North Macedonia.

“The deal for me is bad. I do not accept this deal, and I will try to block it,” Kammenos said.

Greece has long objected to use of the term “Macedonia,” saying it implies claims on the Greek province of the same name. The deal reached last month has met with strong objections in both countries, with opponents saying it concedes too much to the other side. Several demonstrations in Greece over the issue have turned violent.

Greece’s parliament is to vote on the deal only after Macedonia has completed all steps required on its part, which includes constitutional changes. Macedonia’s parliament recently ratified the deal, but the country’s conservative president has refused to sign off on it.

Macedonian nationalists cry treason over historic name deal with Greece

Macedonia’s main opposition party has filed treason charges against its prime minister, Zoran Zaev, for agreeing a historic deal with Greece to change his country’s name.

The deal signed last month would see the ex-Yugoslav republic adopt the name North Macedonia, in exchange for Greece lifting its objections to Macedonia launching talks to join the European Union and Nato.

The issue has poisoned relations between the Balkan neighbours since Macedonia gained independence in 1991, because Athens said that its use of the same name as a province in northern Greece implied territorial designs on that area and a claim to the legacy of Alexander the Great, the storied ruler of ancient Macedon.

Western powers have warmly welcomed the deal but it is fiercely opposed by nationalists in Greece and Macedonia, and still faces potentially difficult hurdles in both countries before it can come into force.

Macedonian prime minister Zoran Zaev (right) with Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz in Vienna

The nationalist VMRO-DPMNE party said it had filed charges including treason and abuse of office against Mr Zaev, his foreign minister Nikola Dimitrov and parliamentary speaker Talat Xhaferi “and all those deputies who voted for this capitulatory, unconstitutional and unlawful agreement with Greece”.

Deputies from VMRO-DPMNE – which was ousted last year after a decade in power – abstained from a parliamentary vote on Thursday in which the deal was approved for a second time.

Presidential refusal
President Gjorge Ivanov, an ally of the nationalists, refused to sign the deal after it was first ratified last month.

After the second vote he cannot legally block the agreement but he is likely to maintain his refusal to sign it, stoking political tension ahead of a referendum on the name change that is expected to be held in late September or early October.

The referendum will be hotly contested, and the deal also obliges Mr Zaev to pass changes to the Macedonian constitution, a move that requires a bigger majority than he currently enjoys in parliament.

The deal has split the governing coalition in Greece, where prime minister Alexis Tsipras must also secure backing for the agreement from a deeply divided parliament.

During a debate in the chamber last month, a deputy from the far-right Golden Dawn urged the military to stage a coup and arrest Greece’s leaders to prevent the deal going through; he has since been expelled from the party and charged with treason.

By contrast, the EU, US and most of the countries’ neighbours have hailed the agreement, and Macedonia hopes to receive a formal invitation to start membership talks with Nato at its summit next week.

US vice-president Mike Pence congratulated Mr Zaev and Mr Tsipras by telephone on Thursday evening, and praised their leadership and courage in reaching a deal that he said would strengthen peace and stability in the Balkans.

Macedonian Court Imprisons Seven For Attempted Murder Of Legislator

A Macedonian court on July 5 imprisoned seven men for the attempted murder of a legislator during an attack on parliament last year.
The seven were found guilty of trying to kill ethnic Albanian Ziadin Sela, leader of the small Alliance of Albanians party. He was hospitalized with severe injuries following the attack.
On April 27, 2017, some 100 nationalists, many of them masked, stormed the assembly in Skopje to protest against the choice of a new parliamentary speaker, an ethnic Albanian who had served as a defense minister in a previous conservative government.
Several other people, including legislators, journalists, and police officers, were also injured in the bloody rioting.
"The accused men tried to kill MP Ziadin Sela. The evidence against them was clear from the video material," said judge Slavica Andrevska.
"My life is ruined. I am done," said Nikola Vojmoinovski, who received a 13-year jail term along with two other defendants.
Four of the men received 10-year sentences. Some of the convicts wept when the verdicts were announced.
All the defendants had pleaded not guilty and defense attorneys said they would lodge an appeal.
In March, Macedonia's state prosecutor charged another 30 people over the April 2017 attack. Their trial is expected to start on August 22.
The 30 accused include five legislators from the opposition conservative VMRP-DPMNE party and senior Interior Ministry officials, who have been charged with "terrorist endangerment of the constitutional order and security."
If found guilty, they could be sentenced to up to 25 years in prison.
A man who pleaded guilty to having attacked another legislator in the violence was sentenced in March to four years in prison.
The attack on parliament, which was strongly condemned by the European Union and the international community, followed a long-running political crisis in the Balkan country.
A month after the violence, Social Democrat Zoran Zaev -- who was beaten up in the riots -- became prime minister.

Macedonian president adamantly against name deal with Greece

SKOPJE, MACEDONIA — Macedonia's president is insisting that he will not sign off on a deal with Greece to change his country's name, even after parliament ratified the agreement for a second time.

Gjorge Ivanov says the deal for Macedonia to be renamed "North Macedonia" is unconstitutional. The conservative main opposition party to which he belongs also opposes the agreement, saying it concedes too much to Greece,

A press release from Ivanov's office Friday said his position "will not be changed by any pressure, blackmail and threats."

Under Macedonia's constitution, Ivanov can only reject legislation approved by parliament once. But he must approve it if lawmakers back it again — as happened on Thursday with the name deal.

However, Ivanov might indefinitely delay signing off on the deal, triggering a constitutional crisis.

Macedonia ratifies name deal with Greece for 2nd time

The Macedonian parliament ratified for the second time an agreement signed with Greece to change the former's name after its president temporarily blocked the deal last week.

Sixty-nine out of 120 lawmakers voted in favor of the agreement.

Macedonia’s president announced last week that he would not sign a landmark deal with Greece to change his country’s name after the Macedonian parliament ratified an agreement on June 20.

Speaking in parliament in Skopje, Macedonian Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov on Thursday said: "The agreement does not harm Macedonia's identity and language, but rather strengthens it as never before."

"According to the law, after this vote President Gjorge Ivanov is obliged to sign the agreement. The statement Ivanov made on the agreement is not true," Dimitrow said.

On June 17, Greece and its northern neighbor signed a historic accord on renaming Macedonia, ending a long-standing dispute between the two countries.

The deal proposes changing Macedonia's name to the Republic of North Macedonia and will enable Greece to lift its veto on Macedonia's EU and NATO accession.

Greece, both a NATO and EU member, has long opposed Macedonia’s official name, as it has a region by the same name in the north of its country.

Due to Athens’ veto, the dispute has been one of the main obstacles to Macedonia’s ambitions to join NATO and the EU.

Negotiations between Macedonia and Greece had recently stepped up, as the new government in Skopje sought progress in its bid to join NATO and the EU.

Despite the dispute between Athens and Skopje, many countries, including Turkey, recognize the country as Macedonia.