In an exclusive Republika interview, interim Interior Minister Pance Toskovski described the extent of chaos and confusion we are facing after his predecessor Oliver Spasovski completely botched the process of issuing passports. As part of the imposed Prespa Treaty with Greece, the Kovacevski Government simply declared all identity documents that don’t have the name “Republic of North Macedonia” as invalid in mid February.

This all began in 2019, when Macedonia, under threat and blackmail, changed its name. The Government were so servile to foreign interests that they agreed to replace all identity documents in just five years. Imagine the lunacy? They could have asked for a ten years period, when the documents expire. Imagine this level of unprofessionalism and incompetence. Government spokesmen said that the documents will be replaced by the Government, at their cost. And now they try to blame the citizens. They should be ashamed of themselves, Toskovski said.

An estimated 600,000 citizens had pending passport applications when the system crashed, due to lack of blank passports and the slow rate of printing even when the blank passports are available. There are two printing machines in the country, able to print out about 3,000 passports a day or 50,000 a month. This has trapped hundreds of thousands of people in Macedonia, unable to leave the country, and also tens of thousands of emigrants are struggling to return home or stay in the countries where they live and work.

We are the only nation that are held captive in their own country. Maybe alongside North Korea. People have valid passports issued by their country and they can’t leave, Toskovski added, insisting that the next Government, due to be elected in May, needs to ensure that people are held accountable for this disaster.

Toskovski reorganized the way the applications are submitted, greatly expanding the capacity and improving the reservation system, which ended the scenes the country witnessed in January, when people, often with small children, would wait for hours, in dead night, so they would be first in line when the passport office in Skopje opens. The printing machines are also used at full capacity, and Toskovski says that we can now expect to print out 75,000 passports a month – but the task remains daunting.

VMRO-DPMNE, which nominated Toskovski to this position as part of the pre-election power sharing agreement, proposed that the law declaring passports with the name Republic of Macedonia invalid is revoked temporarily and the deadline to replace the passports is extended to a reasonable timeframe. SDSM and DUI yesterday voted against the proposal, dooming it in Parliament.

The people responsible for locking Macedonians in house arrest are SDSM and DUI. Even SDSM’s coalition partner LDP mustered courage and submitted a similar proposal to resolve the issue. 630,000 people who have valid passports are not at fault and can’t be blamed. The number of applicants can actually rise, it can go up to 1.2 million. Evert day additional documents expire and also need to be replaced, Toskovski told Republika.

Regarding other burning issues in the country, such as the on-going Albanian drug gang warfare, Toskovski said that Ministry officials appointed by SDSM, such as Zoran Zaev’s former bodyguard Saso Tasevski, who heads the uniformed police, are not cooperating fully. Toskvoski said that Tasevski also has not responded to a written request to explain the lack of preparation for the coming elections, which will be closely contested in the Albanian camp.