Caretaker Interior Minister Panche Toshkovski announced on Wednesday that he had received assurance from Brussels that the European Union would not pose obstacles for citizens of the Republic of North Macedonia, currently residing abroad, who need to travel using their old-name passports to certain countries.

During a Sitel TV appearance on Wednesday morning, Minister Toshkovski conveyed the information he received in writing, explaining that the European Commission’s travel documents committee had convened, with the message being relayed to him by the Belgian ambassador.

Acknowledging the challenges faced by North Macedonian citizens abroad, particularly the 70,000 in Germany with old-name passports, Toshkovski highlighted that the committee recommended EU member states to “show understanding.” He emphasized the potential ease of travel to countries like Hungary and the Czech Republic, but expressed concern that returning citizens might face restrictions when leaving Macedonia.

Toshkovski criticized the ruling structure formed by Members of Parliament from SDSM and DUI for not voting on a proposal by VMRO-DPMNE MPs to extend the validity of old-name passports until the end of 2024.

Regarding the issuance of new-name passports, Toshkovski noted that the daily printing capacity is limited to 3,000, or potentially fewer if multilingual passports (Type B) are printed. He emphasized the need for increased capacity and sufficient booklets to replace the 650,000 old-name passports within the remaining 10 months of the year.

While expressing optimism about meeting the deadline, Toshkovski acknowledged challenges in procurement due to upcoming elections and emphasized the importance of sustained effort, with a calculation that, at the current pace, 75,000 passports could be replaced monthly if working 25 days a month.