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Macedonia Culture and Traditions

2019

December

Boycott of the Nobel Prize

December 10

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.

  • Countryaah: Overview of the capital city of Macedonia, including information about its population, economy, geography, history and map.

Culture and Traditions of MacedoniaOctober

New elections in April

October 20

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

October 18

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

October 10

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.

August

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.

June

The EU is pushing for the start of negotiations

June 18

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.

May

EU negotiations are recommended

May 29th

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

May 12

The 56-year-old lawyer Stevo Pendarovski takes over as the fifth president of Northern Macedonia.

The Social Democrat wins the presidential election

May 5th

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.

April

Even result in the first round of elections

April 21

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.

March

Judgments after storming Parliament

March 15th

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 November 2018).

February

Ex-President and ex-ministers are arrested

February 20th

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

February 12

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

February 8

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.

January

Greece approves the change of name

January 25

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

January 15

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

January 11

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.


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