Comments from First Deputy Prime Minister Artan Grubi made yesterday raised the prospect of yet another referendum to give away the Macedonian national identity. Grubi addressed the shocking revelation from outgoing Deputy Prime Minister Nikola Dimitrov, once a loyal associate of Zoran Zaev and signatory of the Prespa Treaty, who warned the nation that the new Government that is being installed is preparing to make major concessions to Bulgaria that will undermine the Macedonian national identity.
Grubi, who is an ethnic Albanian and therefore less concerned about the Macedonian national identity, insisted that the new Dimitar Kovacevski cabinet will protect Macedonian identity and that its Albanian members stand “side by side” with the ethnic Macedonians. Grubi also said that the voters will be asked to approve or reject any deal with Bulgaria, hinting at another referendum.
This did little to reassure the public. In 2018, the Zaev regime held a referendum on the Prespa Treaty, which imposed a new name and redefined major points of the Macedonian historic narrative, affecting the national identity of the country. Voters rejected the referendum, and it failed through a massive boycott – just 37 percent of the voters turned out, and a large majority, especially of ethnic Macedonians, expressed their anger by staying at home. Still, the Government imposed the Prespa Treaty on the country, insisting that the referendum was a success because of the 37 percent that voted, a large majority cast “yes” ballots. Zaev used what European Commissioner Johannes Hahn referred to at the time as “Balkan tactics” – arrests and blackmail of members of Parliament – to get the votes necessary to impose the name change through Parliament. This greatly undermined trust in the democratic process and adds to the cynicism with which the public receives Grubi’s declaration.