The EU-mediated meeting between Macedonia’s four main political parties, due to take place on April 22 in Vienna, has been cancelled, the European Commission said on April 21.
Macedonia was plunged into crisis when President Gjorge Ivanov announced on April 12 that all criminal proceedings against politicians and government officials would be cancelled. Protests in the capital Skopje have taken place almost daily since then, with thousands turning out on the streets, and more recently there have also been demonstrations in other Macedonian cities.
On April 20, Macedonia’s main opposition party, the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM), urged Ivanov to withdraw his decision, and called on the parliament to cancel planned early elections on June 5. The party said it would only take part in the Vienna meeting if its demands were met.
"We regret that the leaders' meeting planned for 22 April in Vienna could not take place. This meeting was intended to help the country find a way forward in the implementation of the Przino agreement, with the participation of all signatories to the agreement," EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn and MEPs Richard Howitt, Eduard Kukan and Ivo Vajgl said in a joint statement.
“The persisting rule of law issues in Skopje, which undermine this agreement, must be addressed without any further delay, which concerns 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,” the statement read.
Ivanov took the unexpected decision to halt all proceedings against politicians from both the governing parties and the opposition who are under criminal investigation in connection to wiretapped conversations leaked by the SDSM in 2015. His decision seriously undermined the work of the country’s Special Prosecution office, set up to probe suspected crimes revealed in the tapes.
The release of the tapes in early 2015 sparked an earlier crisis in Macedonia, only brought to an end with the signing of the Przino Agreement in July 2015.
The MEPs noted that that the breakdown of the Przino Agreement would have very serious consequences for the country.
"We emphasise that the responsibility to ensure democratic progress and to make headway on the Euro-Atlantic path rests with the parties themselves, on behalf of the citizens of their own country," the joint statement added.
“We deeply regret retrograde steps that move the country further away from its aspirations towards European Union accession.”
The main parties in Macedonia, which have so far participated in talks on overcoming the political crisis, are the governing VMRO-DPMNE, its minority coalition partner the ethnic Albanian DUI, the SDSM and Macedonia’s other ethnic Albanian party, also in opposition, the DPA.
The SDSM recently also urged VMRO-DPMNE to respect the previously agreed conditions set out in the Przino Agreement to enable the negotiation process to continue.