Thursday

9th Feb 2023

Macedonia PM resigns, as EU comes to town

  • Gruevski: Outed for corruption by wiretaps, but still popular (Photo: epp.eu)

Macedonia’s PM, Nikola Gruevski, is ending his 10-year reign, for now, after promising to step down, under an EU accord, the same day the EU neighbourhood commissioner comes to Skopje.

Gruevski said on Thursday (14 January) he’ll file his resignation with parliament on Friday.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • Street protests last year prompted EU to step in (Photo: sdsm.org.mk)

His announcement comes 100 days before snap elections on 24 April.

The vote will be prepared by a caretaker government of people from Gruevski’s VMRO-DPMNE party and from opposition leader Zoran Zaev’s SDSM.

The VMRO-DPMNE will keep the PM post, with Emil Dimitriv, the party secretary general, tipped for the job.

The developments follow an EU and US-backed deal, the Przino Agreement, last year, designed to end a political crisis caused by a wiretapping scandal.

Zaev, last February, leaked recordings which testify to corruption and electoral fraud at the highest levels of the Gruevski regime, prompting street protests.

An EU official who studied the tapes previously told EUobserver: “In any Western European country … the whole government would have resigned.”

The crisis isn’t over yet.

Gruevski, in his announcement, claimed he has “fulfilled” all Przino obligations, including the creation of a special prosecutor on the wiretapping affair and reform of the State Election Commission.

Zaev says reform is too slow to ensure a fair vote and has threatened to boycott it.

Complaints include: that the prosecutor hasn’t been able to start work, meaning there’s been no accountability for the wiretap crimes; that voter lists haven’t been checked; and that Gruevski has a monopoly on media.

But Gruevski says Zaev is trying to delay the vote because opinion polls indicate VMRO-DPMNE will win.

“The elections are scheduled for 24 April. Now is the time to fulfill this obligation,” he said on Thursday.

“After the next election, I won’t lose time on the old political bickering … I have big plans for the state economy, growth and development, to safeguard the way for the opening of new jobs and investment in all areas.”

His resignation comes the same day the EU neighbourhood commissioner, Johannes Hahn, comes to Skopje to assess Przino compliance.

He will meet the leaders of the four main political parties.

He said on Thursday: “I expect that the outstanding elements of the political agreement will be resolved before or during my visit, allowing the election authorities to organise credible elections according to the agreed timetable.”

He earlier threatened to withdraw the commisson’s positive recommendation to start EU accession talks if Gruevski doesn’t fall into line.

But for some experts, such as Nikola Dimitrov, a scholar at The Hague Institute for Global Justice and Macedonia’s former US ambassador, if Hahn endorses the April date, he’ll be making a serious error.

“If [Hahn] acquiesces to elections going ahead as scheduled in these conditions, [he] will be complicit in letting people, who face serious allegations of criminal misconduct, get off the hook,” Dimitrov said in an op-ed in EUobserver, also on Thursday.

“It will perpetuate the crisis and legitimise further erosion of democracy.”

The US vice-president, Joe Biden, also met Gruevski in Washington on Monday.

Like Hahn, he urged pre-election reforms, but he didn’t refer to the EU official’s “agreed timetable.”

“The vice-president and prime minister agreed on the importance of continued implementation of the Przino Agreement and taking the actions necessary to ensure credible elections,” Biden’s office said.

Opinion

Macedonia: the EU's democratic dilemma

If the EU gives its blessing to April elections in Macedonia under present conditions, it will let slip a unique chance to protect democracy in the Western Balkans.

Mob storms Macedonian parliament

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

Opinion

EU buries head deeper in sand over Israel's apartheid

While every European diplomat knows that a return to the "status quo" means maintaining the daily oppression, humiliation and anguish that comes with living under apartheid, the EU continues to acquiesce to a situation that gets worse by the day.

Opinion

Wales' message to Europe: 'We'll be back'

The scars of Brexit have left their mark in communities across Wales. The Menai mussel industry has experienced a sharp decline having once been a staple in fish counters and restaurants across Europe; its business model wrecked by post-Brexit rules.

Latest News

  1. EU leaders attempt to hash out response to US green subsidies
  2. Russian diplomats in EU: unpaid wages, low morale
  3. Eight EU states press for more Turkey-style migrant swap deals
  4. EU buries head deeper in sand over Israel's apartheid
  5. Polish MEP also went on freelance Azerbaijan trip
  6. Why Europe's interminable compromises are a virtue
  7. Wales' message to Europe: 'We'll be back'
  8. MEPs to vote on risky 'hydrogen for home heating' rule

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFBWWEU Social Dialogue review – publication of the European Commission package and joint statement of ETUFs
  2. Oxfam InternationalPan Africa Program Progress Report 2022 - Post Covid and Beyond
  3. WWFWWF Living Planet Report
  4. EFBWWEFBWW Executive Committee report on major abuses, labour crime and subcontracting
  5. European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual & Reproductive Rights (EPF)Launch of the EPF Contraception Policy Atlas Europe 2023. 8th February. Register now.
  6. Europan Patent OfficeHydrogen patents for a clean energy future: A global trend analysis of innovation along hydrogen value chains

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Forum EuropeConnecting the World from the Skies calls for global cooperation in NTN rollout
  2. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  4. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  5. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersLarge Nordic youth delegation at COP15 biodiversity summit in Montreal

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us