Boycott of the Nobel Prize
Northern Macedonia boycott the Nobel Prize ceremony in Stockholm, protesting
that the 2019 Literature Prize was awarded to Austrian author Peter Handke.
Protests have come from many directions against the Swedish Academy's decision
in October to award the prize to Handke, who is known for his support for the
Serbs during the 1990s war in the Balkans and his admiration for the Serbian
leader Slobodan Milosević. The awards ceremony is also boycotted by Albania,
Bosnia, Kosovo, Croatia and Turkey.
Overview of the capital city of Macedonia, including information about its population, economy, geography, history and map.
New elections in April
Prime Minister Zoran Zaev announces that new elections will be held in April
2020, as a result of the EU's decision not to start membership negotiations with
Northern Macedonia. It is now up to the voters to decide which route the country
should take, says Zaev, who wanted to hold elections as early as December.
However, he gave in to opposition demands on a later date and on having a
technocrat government prepare for the election. Such a government will now take
office on January 3 and rule for 100 days.
Sudden stop on the way to the EU
In a severe setback for the government, contrary to what has been expected
for over a year (see June 2018), there is no clear sign for
Northern Macedonia (and Albania) to start membership negotiations with the EU.
This is clear after an EU summit in Brussels. It is mainly France that stops the
expected decision on a start date for negotiations, with the support of Denmark
and the Netherlands. Germany, on the other hand, has decided in its Bundestag to
give green light to membership negotiations (see also June 2019).
France argues that the EU must first strengthen its policies and institutions
internally and change its enlargement process before new negotiations can be
called for. The criticism will be harsh on France, even at a high level in the
EU, where there is talk of failed promises and a "historical mistake".
"Mini-Schengen" in the Balkans
Northern Macedonia, Serbia and Albania decide to form what is called a
mini-Schengen, with the EU's passport-free zone as a model. The agreement is
signed at a meeting in Serbian Novi Sad, by Prime Minister Zoran Zaev and
Serbia's President Aleksandar Vučić and Albania's Prime Minister Edi Rama. From
2021, it will be possible to travel between the countries with only ID cards,
and free movement will also be achieved for goods, capital and services. It is
hoped that the three other Western Balkan countries - Bosnia, Kosovo and
Montenegro - will also join the agreement.
The president calls for corruption scandal
12th of August
President Stevo Pendarovski demands that the country's leading politicians
and prosecutors cancel their summer vacation to deal with a corruption scandal
that he believes risks seriously damaging confidence in state power. The scandal
started rolling in July when controversial TV personality Bojan Jovanovski and a
co-worker were arrested, suspected of bribery. Jovanovski has recently started a
new private television channel and has many feelings in the highest political
establishment. The misconceptions concern a well-to-do businessman, Orce Kamcev,
who is under investigation for money launderingby the special corruption
prosecutor Katic Janeva. The scandal has now been fueled by recordings published
by an Italian newspaper that appear to show that the prosecutor Janeva himself
is involved. The situation is becoming increasingly troublesome for the Social
Democratic government, which has made the fight against corruption its guiding
principle and promised to restore confidence in the rule of law.
The EU is pushing for the start of negotiations
Despite the EU Commission's recommendation (see May 2019),
EU member states decide to postpone the formal start of negotiations somewhat,
"as far as October". Germany is said to be the country that is essentially
slowing down now: according to the German EU minister, the Bundestag needs more
time to make a decision on the issue that also concerns Albania.
EU negotiations are recommended
The European Commission invites EU Member States to start membership
negotiations with Northern Macedonia, as well as with Albania. According to the
Commission, both states have complied with the reform requirements set by the EU
(see also June 2018). Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn
emphasizes that the EU must now live up to its commitments. Prime Minister Zoran
Zaev says that Northern Macedonia's "time in the waiting room" has not been
wasted, but used to prepare for negotiations. It is unclear whether Member
States will decide on this issue at its June summit in Brussels, or whether it
will be at an EU ministerial meeting in July.
Pendarovski takes over as president
The 56-year-old lawyer Stevo Pendarovski takes over as the fifth president of
The Social Democrat wins the presidential election
The government coalition candidate in the presidential election, Stevo
Pendarovski, wins in the second round of the presidential election. According to
preliminary results, Pendarovski gets 52 percent of the vote against 45 percent
of right-wing candidate Gordana Siljanovska. The turnout is 45 percent, which
means that the 40 percent limit for a valid election has been passed with a
good margin. In a statement, a spokesman for the Social Democratic SDSM says
that the election results show support for the government's EU and NATO-friendly
policies. The opposition party VMRO-DPMNE claims that irregularities have
occurred, but election observers have no objection. Outgoing President Gjorge
Ivanov was prevented by the constitution from running for election, he has
already served two terms of office.
Even result in the first round of elections
The first round of the presidential election provides a very scarce victory
for the ruling Social Democrats candidate Stevo Pendarovski, who gets 42.8
percent of the vote against the main opponent, the opposition party's
VMRO-DPMNE's Gordana Siljanovska-Davkova, who gets 42.2 percent. The two will
face each other in a second round of elections on May 5. The result gives a
picture of political polarization, with a Western and EU-friendly government
camp against a nationalist and Russia-oriented opposition. The turnout also
points to political apathy: only 41.8 percent of voters cast their vote, just
over the 40 percent limit for the election to be valid at all. In third place in
the first round comes Belrim Reka who represents the ethnic Albanians but also
tried to attract non-Albanians. He gets 10.6 percent of the vote.
Judgments after storming Parliament
Sixteen people are sentenced to seven to 18 years in prison for storming the
parliament in April 2017. Former Interior Minister and Chief of Public Security
Mitko Chavkov will receive 18 years. A person released and 15 who originally
belonged to the defendants have been pardoned under an amnesty law (see
December 2018). Authorities have announced that former Prime Minister
Nikola Gruevski and several other previously high-ranking leaders are under
investigation, suspected of planning the storm. Gruevski is on the run (see
Ex-President and ex-ministers are arrested
Police arrest former President Trajko Veljanoski as well as former Education
Minister Spiro Ristovski and former Transport Minister Mile Janakieski, all
suspected of involvement in the April 2017 storm of the Parliament.
Formal change of name
Macedonia formally changes its name to Northern Macedonia when the
constitutional changes from January enter into force, as they are published in
an official publication.
Presidential election in April
President Talat Xhaferi announces that presidential elections will be held on
April 21, with a second round on May 5 if needed. President Gjorge Ivanov has
served two terms of office and may not run for re-election.
Clear agreement on NATO membership
6th of February
Macedonia and NATO Member States sign an agreement for Macedonia to become
the 30th member of the Defense Alliance. It takes place at a ceremony in
Brussels and is a direct result of the agreement with Greece on the change of
name (see January 2019). Two days later, Greece becomes the
first country to ratify the agreement. Thus, everything is ready for the formal
change of name. However, the agreement must also be ratified by NATO's other 28
member countries before it can enter into force. It may be time-consuming, but
there is hope that it will be ready in time for a NATO summit in July.
Greece approves the change of name
After a heated debate, the Greek parliament approves the settlement with a
marginal margin, which means that Macedonia changes its name to the Republic of
Northern Macedonia (see 17 June 2018). As a result, all formal
obstacles have been removed and a 27-year conflict resolved, which for Macedonia
opens the way for future membership of the EU and NATO.
Albanian becomes official language
The new language law that gives Albanian enhanced status comes into force.
The law has been signed by President Talat Xhaferi when President Gjorge Ivanov
refused to sign (see March 2018). Albanians now become official
languages throughout the country, and not as before only in areas where
Albanians make up at least 20 percent of the population. This means that
Albanian can be used in healthcare, the judiciary and other public contexts.
Macedonian still has the status of primarily official and national language.
The Constitution is amended prior to renaming
Parliament adopts the constitutional amendments required for the country to
change its name to the Republic of Northern Macedonia; This is done in
accordance with the agreement signed by Macedonia and Greece in June 2018 to end
the long dispute between the countries (see Foreign Policy and Defense). The
amendments to the Constitution are voted on by 81 votes in favor and none
against. The Nationalist Party VMRO-DPMNE, which opposes the change of name, has
boycotted the entire process. The agreement that stirred emotions in both
countries should now be approved by the Greek Parliament. It is expected to
happen in the spring.