Tuesday

23rd Oct 2018

EU to Macedonia: 'Stop playing with fire'

  • Hahn (l) with Gruevski in the latter's time as prime minister of Macedonia (Photo: European Commission)

The EU has once again urged Macedonia to let Albanian parties join a new government and to stop “playing with fire” on ethnic hate speech.

“In a democracy, everyone must acknowledge parliamentary majorities … We therefore encourage the president to reconsider his position urgently”, EU enlargement and neighbourhood commissioner Johannes Hahn said on Tuesday (21 March) in Skopje.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

He said that anti-Albanian protesters had the right to freedom of assembly and expression, but said those rights “come with responsibilities”.

“No one should be tempted to play with fire. We are deeply concerned about tensions and hate speech,” he said.

He also urged people to stop “negative rhetoric targeting the international community”, which, he said “undermines the country's standing”.

Hahn spoke after meeting Macedonia’s political leaders in a bid to end a political crisis that unfolded after elections in December.

The ruling party, the VMRO-DPMNE of former leader Nikola Gruevski, which has held power for over a decade, won the most seats, but failed to get a majority.

The opposition SDSM party formed a coalition with Albanian parties on condition of making Albanian an official language.

But the ethnic Macedonian president, Gjorge Ivanov, refused to endorse the new government, saying it would harm the country’s “territorial integrity and independence”, while pro-Gruevski crowds took to the streets.

Hahn’s visit came amid a 50,000-strong pro-Gruevski rally in the capital on Tuesday.

Gruevski, who risks going to jail over a corruption scandal if his side is ousted from office, said over the weekend: “We are left alone to defend the country. The people will have to defend the country”.

Some participants at another rally on Saturday had chanted “death to Shiptari!”, using a pejorative term for ethnic Albanians, according to the dtt-net.com news agency.

Participants at previous events had also chanted anti-EU and anti-US slogans, while earlier this month vandals threw molotov cocktails at a museum of the Albanian language in the town of Manastir in south-west Macedonia.

Albanians make up a quarter of the population in Macedonia, which narrowly avoided an ethnic conflict in 2001.

Hahn told Macedonian TV that he was encouraged by Tuesday’s talks in which, he said, everybody pledged to respect the constitution.

But president Ivanov declined to meet Hahn, while the EU commissioner declined to meet with organisers of the pro-Gruevski protests.

Hahn said the country needed to resolve the crisis for the sake of its “euro-atlantic integration”.

The EU has said there would be no more enlargements in the next few years, but EU leaders at a recent summit reiterated that all Western Balkan countries had a European “perspective”.

Wider tensions

The Macedonia crisis comes amid a wider flare-up in nationalist and ethnic tension in the region, including in Bosnia, Kosovo, and Serbia.

EU leaders, including Britain’s Theresa May, also voiced concern over Russian attempts to destabilise Western Balkan states.

Britain said that Russia was behind last year’s failed coup in Montenegro, which, the UK said, was designed to stop it from joining Nato.

The US secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, said in a letter to Senate leaders on Tuesday that it was “strongly in the interests of the United States that Montenegro's membership in Nato be ratified”.

“Montenegro's participation in the May Nato summit as full member, not as an observer, will send a strong signal of transatlantic unity," he added, according to the Reuters news agency.

The US leader, Donald Trump, who has been accused of shady ties with Moscow, is to attend the Nato event in his first state trip to Europe.

Mob storms Macedonian parliament

A nationalist mob violently stormed parliament in Macedonia on Thursday, amid EU concern on police conduct during the attack.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  3. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  5. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  6. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  7. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  8. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  9. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  11. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  12. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All

Latest News

  1. Lone Merkel announces Saudi arms ban
  2. Dodgy regime lobbying is below the EU's radar
  3. Bannon's The Movement to launch with January summit
  4. What Italy's budget row is actually about
  5. EU preparing 'concentration camps' for migrants in Africa
  6. Poland to respect EU injunction on judicial purge
  7. EU votes on Facebook and plastic This WEEK
  8. Top EU banks guilty of multi-billion tax fraud

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  2. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  4. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  6. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  8. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  9. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  11. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  12. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us