Even as the Parliament was expected to begin on Friday the third attempt to amend the Constitution and rename Macedonia into North Macedonia, Prime Minister Zoran Zaev was reportedly still having talks with Bilal Kasami, leader of the small ethnic Albanian BESA party, which refuses to support the deal.
Kasami can rely on two to three votes in Parliament, which Zaev needs to reach the necessary number of 81 votes and to amend the Constitution. Kasami demands additional changes to the proposal which go far beyond what Zaev agreed with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. It includes deleting the word “Macedonian” from the formula on nationality agreed between Zaev and Tsipras, because Kasami doesn’t want this designation to apply to ethnic Albanians who are citizens of Macedonia.
In talks with Tsipras, Zaev insisted that “nationality” refers only to the “citizenship” and not to the ethnic background of the Macedonian citizens, and Greece considers that the Prespa treaty does not mean they recognize the existence of a Macedonian nation under that name. But, before Macedonian voters, Zaev insisted that this agreement guarantees their right to call themselves Macedonians and said that Greece is recognizing that right as well. This prompted Kasami to demand a different solution for ethnic Albanians, if it is understood that the designation “nationality” also means ethnic background and not merely citizenship.
Zaev said that he is in talks about a technical solution with BESA, one which would not alter the text of the constitutional amendments and the accompanying law, but would secure their demands. One of these would be to have an Albanian version “e Maqedonise” which translates as “from Macedonia” and not “Macedonian”. According to Zaev, if the BESA demand is accepted, the eight former VMRO-DPMNE members of Parliament who support the deal in exchange for amnesty for them and their relatives and friends, would withdraw their support.