EU considers freezing Macedonia’s EU progress over political crisis

EU considers freezing Macedonia’s EU progress over political crisis
By bne IntelliNews April 22, 2016

European Union officials are considering the possibility of freezing Macedonia’s bid to launch EU membership talks, in an attempt to increase pressure on the country’s government to end the ongoing crisis, media reported.

This was subtly announced in a joint statement from EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn and MEPs Richard Howitt, Eduard Kukan and Ivo Vajgl on April 21, when they said that the Vienna meeting on overcoming the crisis in Macedonia scheduled for April 22 had been cancelled.

The crisis had deepened since on April 12 president Gjorge Ivanov made the decision to pardon all politicians under criminal proceedings, a move that sparked protests across the country, as well as counter-protests staged by the governing VMRO-DPMNE’s supporters, who still back the government and its plans for an early election on June 5.

EU officials also plan to impose sanctions on leading politicians, Deutsche Welle Radio reported on April 21, quoting unnamed sources from Brussels

The plan has been prepared and the procedure, which would likely require a series of measures against both individuals and the state, will soon be enforced through the European Commission, DW said.

The first move could be revocation of the recommendation for Macedonia to start the EU negotiations, sources told DW.

"We are now forced to consider further actions to meet the requirements clearly laid out by the European Council, European Commission and European Parliament," the MEPs' statement said on April 21.

MEPs said that persisting rule of law issues in Skopje, which undermine this agreement, must be addressed without any further delay. These concern in particular the recent presidential pardon and the steps urgently required for the preparation of credible elections which could be recognised by the international community.

Macedonia has been waiting to start EU negotiations after it became an EU candidate country in 2005.

The European Commission recommended opening negotiations on EU membership with Macedonia in 2009, but the launch of talks has been postponed since then mainly due to the conflict with Greece, which objects to the use of the name “Macedonia” as this is shared by a Greek province.

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