President Ivanov Refuses to Use New Macedonia Name

Outgoing President Gjorge Ivanov’s refusal to sign documents that include the country’s new name, North Macedonia, is threatening to cause institutional gridlock.

Gjorge Ivanov. Photo: EPA-EFE/GEORGI LICOVSKI.

North Macedonia’s outgoing President Gjorge Ivanov is refusing to sign 11 laws that were recently adopted by parliament that use the country’s new name, North Macedonia, or to change the name of his own office accordingly.

Among the laws that Ivanov recently returned to parliament unsigned are some key EU-sought reform provisions, the parliament’s press office said.

The press office said that the president did not sign six provisions that were adopted at a parliamentary session held on February 28, including one that envisages the formation of a new Operational Technical Agency, which is part of the EU’s long-sought reforms to the country’s security services. The agency will look after the technical aspects of wiretapping.

Ivanov has also not signed five other provisions that parliament adopted on March 4 and 6, including one about taking a loan from the World Bank, as well as a provision that changes the Access to Public Information Law.

Technically, parliament now has the option to vote on these provisions for a second time, which would obligate the president to sign them.

But the laws do not stipulate a deadline for the president to do so, meaning that he could leave them unsigned indefinitely.

A more realistic option is that all of these laws and provisions, and possibly others, may have to wait after the April-May presidential elections to get approved by the next president.

But the postponement may harm the country’s chances of getting a date set for its EU accession talks to open in June.

In a clarification that President Ivanov sent to the parliament along with the unsigned laws, he said that he would always act according to a pledge he gave five years ago when he was appointed to “protect the Constitution and defend the interests of Republic of Macedonia.”

Parliament in October passed a government motion for the constitution to be amended to allow the country’s name to be changed to the Republic of North Macedonia – as required under the country’s historic agreement with Greece.

The country started using the new name in early February after the Greek parliament approved its accession to NATO.

The president, whose is a strong opponent of the name agreement, has been the only official who has not accepted it.

In his official correspondence, logos, memos, and web page, the presidential office is still using the country’s old name, the Republic of Macedonia.

The Official Gazette, which publishes official decisions, announced last week that it will no longer publish the president’s decrees and decisions until the presidency amends its name.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic