Greek government welcomes constitutional changes by FYROM

Greek parliament

Greek parliament

The constitutional amendments made by FYROM on Wednesday have met with approval in Athens.

According to Greek government sources, changes made in the Skopje parliament by Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) Prime Minister Zoran Zaev on Wednesday “observe the letter and spirit of the Prespes Agreement.”

The fourth amendment in particular pre-empts any possible criticism with regards the previous provocative claims of a ‘Macedonian’ minority living abroad.

This amendement reads as follows:

  1. “The State protects, guarantees and cultivates the uniqueness, the historical and the cultural tradition of the Macedonian people.
  2. The State protects the rights and interests of its citizens living or residing abroad.
  3. The State takes care of the diaspora of the Macedonian people and the diaspora of other (ethnic) communities, cultivating and promoting their relations with the fatherland.
  4. Related to this, the State will not intervene in sovereign rights of other countries and in their domestic affairs.”

The amendments abolish article 49 of the FYROM constitution which says that “the State looks after the position and rights of those who belong to the Macedonian people living in neighboring countries.”

In the four amendments tabled in Skopje’s Parliament, comprising the final drafts of constitutional amendments foreseen by the Prespes Agreement between Greece and FYROM on the name issue, paragraph 3 of the fourth amendment mentions that the state “looks after the diaspora of the Macedonian people and the diaspora of other (ethnic) communities, cultivates and promotes their relations with their homeland.”

The Greek government sources said that in “the most controversial point” (paragraph 3) “the new wording referring to ‘diaspora’ is equivalent to similar regulations in article 108 of the Greek constitution. Therefore, it observes letter and spirit of the Prespes Agreement, which process of adoption is continuing.”

The sources added that “any unhelpful statements by FYROM’s prime minister – which he revoked, expressing his commitment to article 4(3) – were apparently made for domestic reasons in order to gain adequate support for the agreement, but his commitment to the Prespes Agreement remains.”

In addition, they asserted, this development shows that the agreement “contains safety valves which, combined with targeted interventions by the Greek side and the international community, leave no room for any misinterpretation.”

The Greek constitution’s article 108 reads as follows (translated by Parliament): “The State must take care for emigrant Greeks and for the maintenance of their ties with the Fatherland. The State shall also attend to the education, the social and professional advancement of Greeks working outside the State.”

The final versions of the four amendments tabled by Zaev in Parliament that comply with the Prespes Agreement were earlier adopted by his cabinet.

The first amendment relates to the change of the country’s name from “Republic of Macedonia” to “Republic of North Macedonia”, to be included in every reference in the constitution except in article 36, which has a historical aspect. The second amendment relates to the preamble of the constitution. The third amendment adds to the constitution a statement that the country respects the national sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of neighboring countries.

In order to pass, the amendments require a two-thirds majority (80 of 120 deputies). Voting is expected to take place around mid-January 2019.