Wednesday

22nd May 2019

Hahn warns Macedonia of strategic difficulties

  • Hahn: EU border closures 'might have an immediate effect on the situation here' in Macedonia (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

The eight-hour Skopje talks, chaired by EU neighbourhood commissioner Johannes Hahn, came after Macedonia prime minister Nikola Gruevski filed his resignation with parliament on Friday morning.

The resignation, not yet ratified by MPs, is designed to pave the way for snap elections in April following a wiretapping scandal last year, which exposed high-level corruption and voting fraud in Gruevski’s regime, in power for almost 10 years.

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But opposition leader Zoran Zaev said his SDSM party will boycott the elections because Gruevski has failed to create a level playing field.

“If there are elections on 24 April we will not take part, since there is no time to create conditions for a fair election race ... to clean up the voter lists and ... to regulate the state of the media," Zaev said in a statement.

“We will continue to fight for free, fair, and democratic conditions in which to hold elections.”

For his part, Gruevski is accusing Zaev of trying to postpone the vote because opinion polls indicate he'd win despite the wiretap scandal.

He told press after the talks that Zaev’s decision will “take the country even deeper into crisis”.

"The three political parties agreed on the election date. Only Zoran Zaev objected to the 24 April election date,” Gruevski said, referring to his own VMRO-DPMNE party and the two Macedonian Albanian parties, the DUI and DPA.

“He [Zaev] just wanted to postpone elections, without any serious arguments.”

Hahn told media, according to the A1 Television website, that Gruevski and Zaev should continue talks and that he was ready to come back to Skopje to help.

“The country is in a very difficult strategic situation,” he said.

“There is a very serious migration crisis in Europe. What we have seen in 2015 will certainly continue in 2016. Looking into the discussions in many European countries, there is growing tendency to close borders and this might have an immediate effect on the situation here in the country.”

With the European Commission threatening to rescind its positive recommendation on starting Macedonia-EU accession talks, Hahn also said the crisis “is … about the European, Euro-Atlantic perspective, where I believe a strong decisive government which can take decisions is important”.

Serbia elections

Elsewhere in the region, Serb PM Aleksandar Vucic on Sunday said he would call early elections, expected also in April, to get a stronger mandate to push through EU reforms.

He told a meeting of his SNS party: "My decision is that we will have elections ... Serbia needs four more years of stability so that it is ready to join the European Union.”

With the SNS riding high in the polls, he indicated that some members of the ruling coalition were trying to obstruct his pro-EU programme, including normalisation of Kosovo relations.

"We have entered into a conflict with those among us to whom the government is the way how to become rich,” he said, AFP reports, adding that “oligarchs, politicians, and criminals not interested in the progress of Serbia and reforms” have caused a “split in the [ruling] bloc”.

Serbia opened the first two chapters of EU talks in December, with Vucic saying he wants to be ready for accession by 2020.

Macedonia PM resigns, as EU comes to town

Gruevski ends 10-year reign, for now, urging opposition to respect April election date. EU's Hahn to decide if country ready for a fair vote.

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