Macedonian president refuses to meet EU Commissioner Hahn

By bne IntelliNews March 21, 2017

EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn’s attempt to resolve the political deadlock in Macedonia received a setback when President Gjorge Ivanov cancelled his planned meeting with the commissioner on March 21.

Hahn’s visit to Skopje was yet another attempt to find a solution to the protracted political crisis in Macedonia, which has been without a government for more than three months after December 11 snap election. But since Ivanov is currently blocking the formation of a new government, little could be achieved without a meeting with the president. 

At meetings with leaders of the parliamentary political parties in Skopje, Hahn stressed the urgent need to form a new government. “There is no time to lose,” he said in a tweet after he visited the Macedonian capital, accompanied by MEPs Eduard Kukan, Ivo Vajgl and Knut Fleckenstein.

Hahn also said that the EU perspective is still open for Macedonia, but stressed that the clock is ticking and that reforms required by the EU cannot take place without a government in place. “Need statesmanship instead of tactics. Economy hurting,” Hahn tweeted.

Ivanov’s refusal to meet with Hahn signals a growing rift between those close to the VMRO-DPMNE party, which has ruled since 2006, and the European Union. 

"President Ivanov has already presented his position to Hahn during their last meeting on February 10 and it remains unchanged," his office was quoted as saying by news agency MIA.

Ivanov has refused to give the mandate to form a new government to the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM), after the party struck a coalition deal with three ethnic Albanian parties. 

Ivanov, who is close to the SDSM’s main rival the conservative VMRO-DPMNE party, has claimed that the SDSM’s concessions to the Albanian parties threaten the unitary character of the country and could lead to federalisation. 

He initially gave the mandate to VMRO-DPMNE, which narrowly won the election, but the party failed to form a government with its former partner, the ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integration (DUI), after VMRO leaders refused to accept the platform agreed by the Albanian parties in January. The platform includes demands for Albanian to be made a language throughout Macedonia. 

Ivanov’s March 21 statement reiterated that he will not give the mandate to the SDSM unless it makes a public rejection of the “Tirana platform”, as opponents have dubbed the ethnic Albanian platform. The document was published after consultations with Albanian and Kosovan leaders in Tirana, angering many ethnic Macedonians.

Protests in Skopje and other cities in Macedonia against the platform continued on March 21. Demonstrators also rallied in the capital against Hahn’s visit. 

Meanwhile, following his meeting with Hahn, SDSM leader Zoran Zaev said he expects a parliament session to be convened by the end of the week and for the speaker to be elected, after which Ivanov will be obliged to give him a mandate to form a government, according to radio station Slobodna Evropa.

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