The strange influence of the Macedonian model

Written by on May 9, 2019 in Perspectives - Comments Off on The strange influence of the Macedonian model

The presidential elections in North Macedonia last Sunday produced both a winner – pro-EU and pro-Nato candidate Stevo Pendarovski, a member of the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) – and the necessary turnout. According to the Macedonian constitution, a minimum of 40 per cent of votes are required to validate the result under the constitution. After almost a decade at the bottom of the list of Western Balkans’ aspirants entering the European Union, North Macedonia climbed a steep slope to catch up, even overtaking some along the way.

Its path included public protests and external pressure (from the United States and the EU) which brought down long-time authoritarian prime minister Nikola Gruevski. His successor – Zoran Zaev, a relatively unknown politician from a small town – led an SDSM government that concluded a friendship treaty with Bulgaria and resolved the long-standing dispute with another neighbour, Greece, over North Macedonia’s name. The agreement was ratified by a slim margin but secured a majority in parliament following a positive but insufficient referendum.

Zaev’s victory was the last episode in a process that began more than three years ago and proved that a clear vision and strong political will can defeat authoritarian leaders, resolve symbolic issues with neighbours (even in the Balkans!), and reinstate a country’s as a credible EU candidate. Now, Skopje expects to begin negotiations with the EU in the second half of 2019.

To continue reading, please visit the website of the European Council on Foreign Relations.

(Photo via vlada.mk)

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About the Author

Vessela Tcherneva is the head of ECFR’s Wider Europe programme and a senior policy fellow at ECFR. She is the co-founder of Sofia Platform, a venue for dialogue between members of NGOs, the media, and politics from Europe, the Middle East, and the United States. From 2010 to 2013 she was the spokesperson for the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a member of the political cabinet of Foreign Minister Nikolai Mladenov.She has been the head of the Bulgarian office of the European Council for Foreign Relations since 2003, as well as programme director for Foreign Policy Studies at the Centre for Liberal Strategies in Sofia.Between 2004 and 2006 she was secretary of the International Commission on the Balkans, chaired by former Italian prime minister Giuliano Amato. She has been a supervising editor for Foreign Policy – Bulgaria magazine since its launch in 2005.