European Enlargement Commissioner Štefan Füle has cancelled a planned visit to Skopje, saying that he is frustrated at the lack of progress in ending the political stalemate in Macedonia and saying it is now imperative for political leaders in the country to “take responsibility and find a solution”.
Macedonia is caught up in a political quagmire as the opposition protests against the government bulldozing through the budget in a December incident in which opposition MPs and journalists were expelled from parliament in Skopje. The opposition has said it might boycott local elections scheduled for March.
On February 15, the heads of mission in Skopje of the European Union, Nato liaison office, OSCE and the United States said in a joint statement: “We are following domestic political developments with increasing concern. Immediate steps are needed to resolve the current political impasse following the events of 24 December. We strongly urge all sides to enhance the political dialogue to that end, to focus on the country’s strategic priorities, and to put the best interests of the country and its citizens first”.
European Parliament rapporteur on Macedonia has been in Skopje in recent days for talks with various officials, including prime minister Nikola Gruevski.
There is widespread concern that Macedonia’s domestic political standoff could be a serious blow to making progress in its stated aspirations for EU membership.
On February 15, Füle said that in the context of the High Level Accession Dialogue (HLAD) with Skopje, he had originally intended to visit Skopje next week to assess progress in EU-related reforms.
This fourth round of the HLAD would also have formed part of the preparation of the European Commission’s upcoming Report, requested by the December 2012 General Affairs Council, Füle said.
“However, in light of the current political impasse, I do not consider that my visit to discuss these issues would be appropriate at this particular time,” he said.
“Both in public statements and through visits by senior officials and my own – offering to facilitate the process of finding a solution – the European Union and its partners have expressed their concerns regarding the events of December 24 and their handling.”
Füle said that he was “frustrated” by the lack of progress in putting an end to the political stalemate.
The previous rounds of the HLAD and the December Council conclusions had created an opportunity to make further progress on EU-related reforms and for opening the accession negotiations, he said.
“The current situation is putting at risk this opportunity,” he said.
“It is now imperative for political leaders in Skopje to take responsibility and find a solution, demonstrating the maturity of the democratic institutions and putting the best interests of the country and its citizens first,” Füle said.
(Photo of Štefan Füle: Council of the European Union)