Macedonia faces new political crisis as talks stall

Macedonia faces new political crisis as talks stall
By bne IntelliNews October 28, 2015

A group of western ambassadors has appealed to Macedonian government and opposition leaders to resolve the current stalemate in implementing a political agreement reached in July.

There are fears that if talks between the ruling VMRO-DPMNE and opposition leaders do not progress, Macedonia will see a return of the mass protests and political unrest that took place this spring.

The Przino Agreement included a commitment to replace Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski’s cabinet with an interim government in advance of new elections in 2016. While there has been some progress since then, an important deadline to appoint several ministers for the new interim cabinet was missed on October 20.

On October 27, the ambassadors of the EU, France, Germany, Italy, the UK and the US issued a joint statement calling for both sides to adhere to their commitments under the agreement.

The diplomats urged the VMRO-DPMNE not to postpone the implementation of the reforms for solving the political crisis, and for Macedonia’s biggest opposition party, the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) to respect its role in the negotiations and not to publish taped phone conversations involving people related to the government.

They also called for Macedonia’s new special prosecutor Katica Janeva to be provided with all necessary resources to investigate criminal allegations based on the content of the illegally wiretapped conversations.

“The Przino Agreement calls for the parties to put the interest of the country first and confirm their commitment to the Euro-Atlantic integration process and democratic principles. All parties should act in good faith, to renew their commitment to that Agreement, and to act upon measures agreed to with the absolute urgency that the situation demands,” the statement said. It was issued after a meeting with Gruevski on October 23.

However, Gruevski responded by Tweeting that “the people will decide Macedonia’s future”, indicating that he may not be ready to comply with the ambassadors’ request.

"The people will show who they support and trust at the April 24 elections. No foreigner or anyone with a magic wand will solve our problems," he added in a statement published on the government's website on October 27.

The July agreement was reached by Macedonia’s four largest parties - VMRO-DPMNE and its longstanding coalition partner the Democratic Union for Integration (DUI), and the SDSM and its partner the Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA).

It followed months of unrest and mass protests in the Macedonian capital. The SDSM had boycotted the parliament since the April 2014 general election, which they claimed was rigged. The SDSM also started releasing an incriminating dossier of information on members of the government, gained from wiretapped conversations between top officials, in an attempt to force Gruevski to stand down.

There has been some progress in implementing the deal, including the return of the SDSM to the parliament as of September 1, the appointment of a new special prosecutor (but not of her team), and a provisional agreement on the electoral rules.

Although, the politicians missed the October 20 deadline for the nomination of new ministers of interior and labour and five new deputy ministers, four days later the four parties agreed to continue the talks with EU mediator Peter Vanhoutte.