Wednesday

24th Apr 2019

Macedonia sticks with EU despite Russian offer

  • Skopje: Russian ambassador made Gruevski an offer, The Times reported (Photo: Dan)

Macedonia appears to have turned the corner on a political crisis that recently saw thugs storm parliament and beat up MPs.

Gjorge Ivanov, its president, gave opposition leader Zoran Zaev the legal mandate to form a coalition government with two ethnic Albanian parties on Wednesday (17 May).

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

  • Gruevski should be in jail, wiretaps indicated (Photo: epp.eu)

“The obstacles for awarding the mandate for a new Macedonian government have been removed”, Ivanov said on TV.

In return, Zaev, who still had a nasty head wound from last month’s parliament attack, dropped his plan to make Albanian an official language and pledged to protect Macedonia’s “constitutional order and territorial integrity”.

Ivanov, who is an ally of Macedonia’s former leader, Nikola Gruevski, had previously withheld the mandate on grounds that Gruevski’s party had won the most seats in December's elections even though Gruevski could not form a majority.

He changed his mind on Wednesday amid a tug-of-war between the West and Russia over the future of the Western Balkan region.

The EU, the US, and Nato welcomed Ivanov’s decision.

“We hope that this constructive spirit will continue to prevail”, the EU foreign service and the European Commission said in a statement on Wednesday.

Nato head Jens Stoltenberg urged Macedonian leaders to “advance the country's Euro-Atlantic aspirations”.

Russia had not commented on Ivanov’s U-turn as of Thursday morning, but the development represented a setback for the Kremlin's attempt to pull Macedonia into its sphere of influence.

The Russian ambassador in Skopje, Oleg Shcherbak, recently told Gruevski in behind-closed-doors meetings that he should switch allegiance from the West to Russia in return for Kremlin support, according to The Times, a British newspaper.

Macedonia cannot “survive without Russia”, Shcherbak reportedly said.

Russia’s ambassador to the EU, Vladimir Chizhov, said in Brussels earlier this month that Macedonia should hold new elections and claimed that previous EU appeals for Ivanov to grant Zaev the mandate were divisive and unconstitutional.

The political crisis erupted two years ago when Zaev published wiretaps on the then prime minister Gruevski that indicated Gruevski was guilty of corruption and should go to jail.

Parts of former Yugoslavia - Croatia and Slovenia - are already EU and Nato members. Albania is also a Nato member.

Montenegro is due to join Nato at a summit in Brussels next week, after a failed coup, widely blamed on Russian intelligence, last year tried to stop that from happening.

Macedonia is also in line to join, but its aspirations are being held back by Greece, which says Macedonia should first change its name because there is a Greek region that has the same name.

Ethnic Albanians account for one in four Macedonian citizens. The country narrowly avoided a civil war in 2001 with the help of EU and Nato diplomacy.

Mob storms Macedonian parliament

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

Trump's Israel plan to 'test' EU resolve

EU countries ought to draw "red lines" for US president Donald Trump on the Arab-Israeli conflict, Herman Van Rompuy, the former head of the EU Council, has said.

News in Brief

  1. Political deadlock looms at Sunday's Spanish election
  2. Le Pen in Copenhagen for talks with new key ally
  3. Trump to meet May and Macron on Europe visit in June
  4. Johnson's sister to run in EU elections on new list
  5. Weber pledges to 'block' Nord Stream 2 as president
  6. UK warns migrants not to cross 'dangerous' Channel
  7. Austria's FPO publishes racist poem
  8. Spanish party leaders spar over Catalonia

EU migrants sneaking into US from Mexico

Almost 1,000 Romanian nationals were caught trying to sneak into the United States in 2017, of which around half attempted to cross via Mexico. Nationals from countries like Hungary and the UK were also intercepted.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  2. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  3. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  4. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  9. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  10. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan

Latest News

  1. Weber vow to block Nord Stream 2 amid 'sue' threat
  2. 'Next Juncker' must fix EU's corporate power problem
  3. EU want Facebook pan-EU advert fix for May elections
  4. Ukraine comic-president invited to EU capitals
  5. Trump's Israel plan to 'test' EU resolve
  6. Romania drafts EU code on NGO migrant rescues
  7. Bulgaria, Hungary, and Malta shamed on press unfreedom
  8. EU drafts $20bn US sanctions list in aviation dispute

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us