Macedonian talks fail to end political crisis

By bne IntelliNews June 11, 2015

Dimitar Koychev -

 

The EU-mediated talks between the leaders of Macedonia’s four largest political parties in Brussels failed to produce a final agreement on resolving the deep political crisis in the Balkan country, the European Commission said in a statement.

The four party leaders – Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski from the ruling VMRO-DPMNE, Ali Ahmeti from its coalition partner ethnic Albanian DUI, and the opposition's Zoran Zaev from SDSM and Menduh Thaci from ethnic Albanian DPA - met in the presence of Johannes Hahn, EU commissioner for European neighbourhood policy and enlargement negotiations, European Parliament member Ivo Vajgl, the Head of the EU Delegation, the US Ambassador in Skopje, and the Secretary General of the European External Action Service.

Talks were open and detailed, but did not result in a final agreement, the Commission said. “The European Union urges all parties - in the interest of their country and its citizens - to find a lasting political compromise without any delay and come forward with concrete proposals to this end, building on the agreement already reached in Skopje on 2 June,” the statement reads.

On June 2 a preliminary agreement was reached for the holding of early elections by end-April 2016. However, a key issue that seems to have been left for this latest round of negotiation was what government would administer the snap election next year.

On its website the opposition SDSM claimed that its condition for forming a new government without the participation of Gruevski was not satisfied. On the other hand, Gruevski blamed Zaev for the talks’ failure.

The European Commission called for the urgent implementation of agreed reform commitments, adding that it “will now consider how to best contribute to the political process in the country and remains ready to facilitate discussions".

The majority of MPs from SDSM have boycotted parliament since the April 2014 general elections, claiming that the election was rigged.

In February, Zaev accused Gruevski of ordering a massive wiretapping campaign that targeted more than 20,000 Macedonians. Since then he has made many more allegations, and has publishing taped phone conversations concerning, among other things, the current government’s involvement in the judiciary and key appointments.

According to Gruevski, the scandal is a plot by foreign intelligence services, while Zaev claims he received the taped phone conversations from a whistleblower.

In late April, Macedonian prosecutors charged Zaev with “violence against representatives of the highest state bodies”. Prosecutors also indicted four other people, already in pre-trial detention, on charges including espionage, illegal wiretapping and violence.

The crisis deepened further as anti-government protests began on May 5. The first protest was violent, triggered by Zaev's allegations that Gruevski had tried to cover up the death of a 21-year-old, Martin Neskovski, who was beaten to death by a policeman at the time VMRO-DPMNE supporters were celebrating their party’s victory in the June 2011 parliament election.

During the weekend of May 9-10 at least 18 people, including eight police officers, were killed in armed clashes in the town of Kumanovo, close to the Macedonian border with Serbia and Kosovo. This was the worst outbreak of violence in the country since the inter-ethnic conflict between ethnic Macedonians and Albanians ended in 2001.

On May 12, three top Macedonian officials resigned, signalling a deepening political crisis. Interior Minister Gordana Jankuloska and Transport Minister Mile Janakieski were key members of Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski’s administration, having held their posts since 2006. The third resignation was that of Saso Mijalkov, director of the administration for security and counterintelligence, who is Gruevski’s cousin.

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