The European Union has cancelled what were intended to be talks bringing together the Republic of Macedonia’s major parties to resolve that country’s current crisis, after major opposition party SDSM insisted it would not attend the meeting that had been planned for April 22 in Vienna.
The latest phase of Macedonia’s political crisis has followed president Gjorge Ivanov’s highly controversial amnesty of 56 politicians, including former prime minister and VMRO-DPMNE leader Nikola Gruevski, implicated in an illegal surveillance scandal.
Ivanov’s April 12 amnesty decision triggered mass public protests which are continuing, demanding Ivanov’s resignation and the appointment of a new technocratic administration.
The country is meant to be headed for early parliamentary elections on June 24, already postponed from an initial April 24 date, which the SDSM has said it will boycott because it does not believe that the process will be free and fair.
On April 21, European Commissioner Johannes Hahn and members of the European Parliament Richard Howitt, Eduard Kukan and Ivo Vajgl issued a strongly-worded statement on the cancellation of the talks that had been planned for Friday.
The meeting had been intended to help Macedonia find a way forward in the implementation of Pržino agreement, with the participation of all signatories to the agreement, the statement said, referring to a June 2015 deal that had been intended to resolve the crisis that followed an earlier SDSM boycott of parliament over claims of electoral rigging, and that had been deepened by the wiretapping scandal.
“The persisting rule of law issues in Skopje, which undermine this agreement, must be addressed without any further delay. This concerns in particular the recent presidential pardon and the steps urgently required for the preparation of credible elections which could be recognized by the international community,” the statement by the EU group said.
Hahn and the MEPs said that they all remain strongly committed and available to assist the parties.
“However, we emphasize that the responsibility to ensure democratic progress and to make headway on the Euro-Atlantic path rests with the parties themselves, on behalf of the citizens of their own country. Now it is their turn to deliver and to define the way forward.”
They reiterated that they had said that the breakdown of the Pržino Agreement would have very serious consequences for the country.
“We deeply regret retrograde steps that move the country further away from its aspirations towards European Union accession,” the statement said.
“In the absence of any further progress, we are now forced to consider further actions to meet the requirements clearly laid out by the European Council, European Commission and European Parliament,” they said, in phrasing that has led to some to read as a hint about sanctions.
“We also acknowledge the statements and actions by civil society in the country and express our full support for all peaceful efforts to ensure pluralism and the freedom of opinion, which are central values in all European democracies,” the statement said.