Albanian becomes second language in Macedonia, Tsipras faces no-confidence vote

AFP/Robert Atanasovski

The speaker of the Macedonian Parliament Talat Xaferi signed a law establishing the Albanian as the second official language in the country, the Beta news agency reported on Tuesday, while Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras faces a no-confidence vote over the name deal with Skopje on Wednesday.

The law comes in force after being published in the Official Gazette, a year after it was adopted since the Macedonian nationalist President Djordjo Ivanov twice refused to sign it saying it was unconstitutional.

The Albanians are the largest ethnic minority in Macedonia and were essential in accepting the name deal Skopje and Athens agreed on last June.

At the same time, the Greek Parliament started the debate on the deal on Tuesday with Tsipras defending the agreement.

“Our northern neighbour (Macedonia) hasn’t given it up, so we shouldn’t either,” he told the parliament.

However, there is some uncertainty about the outcome since one of the Tsipras coalition’s party left the bloc in a protest over the June agreement leading to the government no-confidence vote scheduled for Wednesday night.

Tsipras is still likely to survive. In that case, the parliament is expected to ratify the name deal soon.

If not, the June agreement, dubbed historic, and which for the European Union said was the most significant political achievement in the Western Balkans in 2018, cannot be implemented.

Later on Wednesday, Macedonian vice Prime Minister in charge of European issues Bujar Osmani told Television 21 the Law on Languages was expected to be published on Wednesday at the latest.

“That means that Xaferi can speak in Albanian while presiding the parliament,” Osami, who is a member of the DUI local Albanian party, together with Xaferi, said.

DUI is a coalition partner to the Socialdemoctaric Alliance of Macedonia led by Prime Minister Zoran Zaev.

The move followed the parliament vote in favour of the Athens-Skopje agreement to rename Macedonia into North Macedonia.

Zaev managed to form the two-thirds majority for the adoption of the constitutional changes necessary to legalise the name change, despite the boycott by the most significant opposition VMRO DPMNE nationalist party. It branded the changes treason.

The accord paved the way to the country’s NATO and the European integrations after 27 years of the blockage by Greece due to the name of Macedonia, the same as the neighbouring Greek province.

Athens said it showed territorial claims by Skopje.

Nationalists in both states objected the agreement saying it was against the countries’ interests and had staged street protests after the two prime ministers, Zaev and his Greek counterpart Alexis Tsipras signed it last June.

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