After the ceremony for signing the contracts for support of the young agriculturists, which took place at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Resources Management, Prime Minister Zoran Zaev made the following statement, which we deem as partially truthful:
There will be absolutely no comprehensive bilingualism in the institutions throughout the territory of Macedonia. The Law on the Languages is in compliance with the Constitution, and it will advance some practical needs of the citizens they haven’t been provided with until now.
[Source: Plus Info, Date: 25 November 2017]
While responding to journalist questions regarding the use of the Albanian language in the Republic of Macedonia according to the new Bill on the use of the languages, the Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said that it won’t be effective in all the institutions throughout the RM, which is partially correct.
In order to check Zaev’s claim, we reviewed the Bill on the use of the languages thoroughly. The bill has been published on Ministry of Justice’s website for over a month, and is already in procedure in the Parliament of the RM.
Articles 1 and 2 are decisive in the process of checking PM’s statement, but there also few more out of the 25 in total.
Article 1, paragraph 3 indicates where the law will be applied, if passed in the Parliament:
In all institutions of the state authorities of the Republic of Macedonia, central institutions, public enterprises, agencies, directorates, public institutions and organizations, commissions, legal entities performing public authorizations pursuant to law and other institutions, the official language and the alphabet thereof, besides the Macedonian language and alphabet thereof, shall be the language spoken by 20% of the citizens of the Republic of Macedonia, in a manner stipulated by this law.
Evidently, according to the wide scope of the Bill, Albanian will be the second official language besides the Macedonian, meaning that it will be used on the entire territory of the RM.
Article 2, paragraph 2 of the Bill, which covers the manner of and the institutions that will use the Albanian language in detail, may imply the same conclusion:
In the state institutions of the Republic of Macedonia, mentioned in article 1 paragraph (3) of this law, official language, besides the Macedonian language and the alphabet thereof, shall be the language spoken by at least 20% of the citizens of the Republic of Macedonia who use the alphabet thereof in: the communication, the utilization and the usage in all the civic procedures before bodies comprising the state authorities (the Parliament of the Republic of Macedonia, the President of the Republic of Macedonia, the Government of the Republic of Macedonia, the Judiciary, the Public prosecution), the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Macedonia, the Ombudsman of the Republic of Macedonia, in the election process, in the education, science, health care system, culture, law enforcement procedures, broadcasting, notaries, debt collection, infrastructure, books of records, personal documents, finances, economy, as well as in other areas.
Hence, it could be safely concluded that the second official language, Albanian, will be official language on the entire territory of the RM.
However, if you throw an eye to the other articles of the Bill, you’ll notice that the law will be applicable to the territory of local self-governments populated by at least 20 percent of people speaking the second official language.
Thus, in Article 8, paragraph 3 of the law it is set forth that:
The uniforms of the police; the firefighters; the health care workers, in Skopje and in the municipalities in which at least 20% of the citizens speak official language different than the Macedonian language shall be labelled in the Macedonian language and the Cyrillic alphabet thereof, as well as in the language spoken by at least 20% of the citizens of the Republic of Macedonia and the alphabet thereof.
As evident, this provision regarding the uniforms of specified public services governs only Skopje and the municipalities where at least 20 percent of the citizens speak an official language different than the Macedonian language.
In this regard, the provisions of article 16, paragraphs 1 and 2 seem to be a rather interesting subject of analysis:
(1) The name of a street, square, bridge and other infrastructural object in all local self-government units where at least 20% of the citizens speak a language different than the Macedonian, such as Skopje, shall be written in Macedonian language and the Cyrillic alphabet thereof, as well as in the language spoken by at least 20% of the citizens and the alphabet thereof, as well as in the languages accepted generally by the international community.
(2) On border crossings of the Republic of Macedonia and airports located in areas where at least 20% of the citizens speak a language different than the Macedonian language, the names of institutions, other signs and signposts shall be written in Macedonian language and the Cyrillic alphabet thereof, as well as in the language spoken by at least 20% of the citizens and the alphabet thereof.
This would practically mean that the infrastructural objects or the border crossings and the airports will be labelled according to the number of people that speak the second official language, the Albanian, in that particular area (and those areas are not precisely defined, but perhaps they should be so as to avoid confusion). Or, if border crossings in southwestern, northwestern and northeastern Macedonia are labelled both in Macedonian and Albanian, this won’t be the case with border crossings in eastern Macedonia, or the major crossing with Greece – Bogorodica.
Albeit it’s still a matter of a bill, it seems that certain things must be clarified during the amendments session, for instance, the definition of the use of the language by the law enforcement or in the health care system.
Given the aforementioned arguments and the clear and unambiguous quotes from the bill, we assess that the statement made by the Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, in which he said that “there will be absolutely no comprehensive bilingualism in the institutions throughout the territory of Macedonia” as partially truthful, i.e. it’s a half-truth.
Assessed by: Teo Blazhevski