EU holds key to Macedonia political crisis

For the fifth time in the last seven months, European Union Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn is traveling to Skopje on Friday to try to find a solution for yet another deadlock between Macedonia’s warring political parties. And his latest visit might prove crucial for Macedonia’s future if he can push Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski to resign, helping politicians to finalize a date for early parliamentary elections.

“For the first time since the fall of Communism, the EU is facing a situation in which the prime minister of an EU candidate country must abdicate because of indications for criminal and political wrongdoings,” Nano Ruzin, former Macedonian ambassador in Brussels told DW.

Once considered an exemplary pupil by the EU for its dedication to reforms and improving inter-ethnic relations, Macedonia is on the brink of losing its EU candidate status. The annual European Commission Progress Report published in November 2015 cites backsliding in key areas: democracy, rule of law and media freedom.

An EU experts report in June noted various forms of government corruption, such as electoral fraud, blackmail and extortion. It also highlighted “an unhealthy relationship” between top govenrment officials and the media.

Illegal wiretapping

In February, Zoran Zaev, leader of Macedonia’s opposition Social Democrats (SDSM) started publishing materials that suggested illegal wiretapping of 20,000 people, widespread government corruption and even murder cover-ups.

Although Prime Minister Gruevski denied any wrongdoing, he accepted EU and US mediation in the political crisis. According to the July agreement , his 10-year-rule was supposed to end before January 15, paving the way for the formation of an interim government tasked with organizing early parliamentary elections on April 24.

Gruevski also agreed to implement a series of reforms to improve the democratic standards and to guarantee fair and free elections.]

But according to three members of the European parliament, Ivo Vajgl, Richard Howitt and Eduard Kukan who visited Macedonia on Tuesday, the agreement is still far from being fully implemented, despite the country’s steps toward restoring parliamentary stability and investigating the corruption allegations.

“It (the agreement) is not being fully implemented or we would not be here. It must be. That must include the resignation of the Prime Minister. It must include structural reforms, as well as the other parts of that agreement,” Howitt told a press conference in Skopje.

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