Early elections come as a result of the inevitable conceptual clashes within the EU that have resulted in not opening negotiations, but also in the forced optimism that everything is sure for the start of negotiations. A rational option to return once again to the electoral will, but also a moment of reflection to reaffirm commitment to integration despite disappointments. The fading of the moment must not nourish “fatalistic” discourses in the integration process. Simply the tasks need to be done. The election must produce a new mobilization, a European political synergy that is not “fixed” on a date but focuses on substantive change.
Author: Bardhyl Zaimi
Ungrounded euphoria and beliefs always produce dramatic situations. In politics and diplomacy there are always probabilities that make developments in a given context unpredictable. Those who believe that they possess the fluid and ever-changing legacies of the great constellations are disappointed and shocked. Only a realistic optimism can comfort the consequences of the combinatorics of large diplomatic and conceptual “games”.
North Macedonia and Albania, as it is already known, have not received a date for the start of negotiations. France’s veto has been crucial to turning all preliminary optimism into a disappointment for two prime ministers, Zoran Zaev and Edi Rama. After a nightmare that has lasted for hours, French President Emanuel Macron has shown no readiness for the two Western Balkan countries to get a date for the start of negotiations.
After the veto for opening of negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania, which France used at the Council of Europe Summit in Brussels, French President Emanuel Macron had stressed that not every EU neighbor should be a member of the Union. “I don’t think the only relationship we have with our neighboring countries should be enlargement. Europe would then be the only world power that would consider the neighborhood policy to be a membership proposal,” said Macron. In his integral speech after the summit, Macron explained his veto, but also praised the work done in both countries on the path of reforms.
Failure to get a date for the start of negotiations has been crucial to the fate of Prime Minister Zaev and his Government. Zaev had always been pronounced of a sure start to EU negotiations, but the French veto had been fatal to his position as a prime minister, at a time when all hopes of continuing and strengthening his Government were focused on this crucial moment for all citizens.
Despite the fact that all representatives of European institutions and most of the member states had stated that North Macedonia and Albania met the conditions for the start of negotiations, President Macron’s position remained firm in his concept of promoting a new negotiation methodology which turned out to be crucial for developments on the political scene in North Macedonia. Following the French veto, which came as a silent warning earlier, Prime Minister Zaev already had two options ahead of him, even though he had stated at a press conference that he had some options “rolling” in his head.
One option remained to extend his mandate, risking a turbulent situation, while the opposition had already announced protests, while the other option was to call early elections as an opportunity to give space to a calmer political process, through which once again the avenues of electoral political will would be verified.
And Prime Minister Zaev had chosen the second, most reasonable option, perhaps even out of his deep personal disappointment, after all those promises that already seemed to set the date for the start of the negotiations but had turned into a pity after the French veto. In fact, this epilogue seemed inevitable, while Prime Minister Zaev had at all times expressed his conviction that the date issue was a done deal.
Being in the middle of this disappointment and the constant pressure of the opposition for early elections, any other option would mean political apathy and a Government that had already lost the moral legitimacy to once again be committed to the already postponed integration process beyond any expectation. Regular parliamentary elections seemed no longer an option, as this would in the meantime produce many dramatic situations with many unknowns, while this path would be overwhelmed by justifiable fatigue.
After consulting with party leaders and coalition partners, Zaev had called for early elections so that citizens could determine which path they would choose at these crucial moments. Meanwhile, the President of the State, Stevo Pendarovski, had called for a meeting of leaders to politically redress the situation after the European Council did not give a date.
The Sunday, October 20, just two days after the news of non-opening of negotiations, leaders of political parties gathered in the residence of President Stevo Pendarovski to discuss the option of early parliamentary elections. After unanimously assessing that all political parties remain committed to Euro-Atlantic integration, in the second part of the meeting, the leaders agreed to hold early parliamentary elections on April 12. It has now been announced that April will be election month, with all parties assessing it as a necessary decision to once again give political legitimacy to the EU’s irreversible path. Early elections will be held according to the Przhino formula implemented even in the constitution that implies technical government 100 days before the elections. A calculation that marks the date of the election shows that Prime Minister Zaev must leave the post to the new prime minister from his party in early January.
According to the Przhino Agreement, already implemented in the constitution, it is foreseen that 100 days before the parliamentary elections, whenever they may be, a technical Government will be formed, in which the opposition will also take part. Despite the fact that a date has been set for early elections, the political parties have not provided details if they have even discussed the process. It is likely that everything will be set on the eve of the New Year, when Prime Minister Zaev is expected to leave the post.
Although early elections were inevitable, other dilemmas are already open as to whether the required reform course will be pursued, which will again be evaluated in the process of obtaining a date for negotiations. It is likely that these pre-election months will bypass the expected reforms, especially as each party enters the fever of a possible victory. It is likely that from concrete solutions and concrete work to meet obligations implying approximation to the standards required by the EU will be transferred to other discourses as the electoral mobilization discourse.
The good news is that all parties have agreed on a commitment to the European integration process, but this will probably not be enough to show concrete results in all areas where reforms are expected to take place. High European officials have called for continuing in the path of reforms, but it seems that these calls will be lost in the arena of political battles that are expected to take place in the meantime.
Not getting the date for the negotiations due to the French veto is likely to dampen the ambition and enthusiasm for change into an extreme apathy. The conceptual battle within the EU, between France seeking a new methodology and positions within the union itself and Germany as the promoter of the opening of negotiations, is likely to greatly undermine commitments to stay on the European path.
This delay, and this inevitable transition to early elections, could perhaps strike a blow to the ambition to open negotiations as soon as possible. The vast majority of member states had praised the two countries’ progress on the road to reform even though they knew much was left to be done. A promise made that was undermined by France of a new approach to negotiations.
It is not yet known what might be the best option for the two countries in the region. A veto signifying setbacks, dilemmas, doubts and uncertainties on the horizon, or a unanimous pro decision that would mean a start, an introduction to the matrix of European motivational commitments. A start would probably mean a mask that would transpose the institutional face of the two countries, just as Aeschylus once demanded a mask for the Greeks in order to give a different face to their progress, as Kadare describes in “Invitation in a Studio” “
However, perhaps this veto is a good opportunity to understand that in large constellations, the Western Balkan states remain small enough to impose their reasonable optimism. Europe remains complicated in its decision-making, while the countries of the region have nothing left but to strive constantly to align with European standards, despite the probabilities of opening negotiations. And it must happen because of the citizens and not because of a date that will in a time if politics, governance, no matter who is in power, will take care to work on the principles of good governance, on the principles that Europe works.
Every other street is blind. Every other street may offer instant triumphalism, may offer fascinating rhetoric, but there comes a moment when it will confront the bitter reality of impossibility. Opening the pre-election horizon must not avoid this substantive orientation, as it is already clear that the path to membership will be so difficult and with permanent accountability.