EU Enlargement Commissioner, Johannes Hahn | Photo by: EC
Speaking at the European Parliament’s debate in Strasbourg on Macedonia’s progress in 2014 on Tuesday, Commissioner Hahn said that the allegations contained in the tapes produced by the opposition must be examined.
“Irrespective of the origins of the wiretapping… any potential wrongdoing revealed with their disturbing content must be investigated and appropriate consequences must be taken, especially if it infringes fundamentally on the rule of law and on the separation of powers,” Hahn said
The Commissioner added that “at a time when public trust in institutions is low, all public figures must act responsively and take accountability for their actions in their own interest”.
Noting that the political crisis in Macedonia has only highlighted “continuing concerns about the independence of justice” in the country, Hahn urged “all parties to respect the rule of law and independence of judiciary, and the freedom of press”.Macedonian opposition leader Zoran Zaev on Tuesday called on the government to resign after revealing new taped conversations that he said provided the strongest evidence so far of the government’s use of fraudulent tactics in elections.
At an event in Skopje, conversations were presented between top officials of the ruling VMRO DPMNE party about printing IDs for election fraud purposes, dispatching people across the country to vote, stealing election material – and even shutting down the power to tower block elevators so that elderly people could not go to vote.
The Social Democratic Party, SDSM, began revealing its stash of wiretapped conversations on February 9, when Zaev said more than 20,000 people in the country of 2 million had been wiretapped and that the eavesdropping had been orchestrated by Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and his cousin, the chief of the secret police, Saso Mijalkov.
Gruevski has since denied the allegations if wiretapping, insisting that the opposition obtained its material from unnamed foreign secret services. On Tuesday evening, VMRO DPMNE said the tapes had been cut and edited and were thus not authentic.
At the European Parliament debate on Tuesday, the shadow rapporteur for Macedonia, British MEP Richard Howitt, said he had “no doubt” that large-scale surveillance has occurred in Macedonia and that at least part of the released tapes appeared authentic.
“We cannot ignore this evidence, and neither can the Commissioner,” Howitt said.
The opposition has presented eight batches of tapes so far, which it says it obtained from sources in the Macedonian secret services.
The Social Democrats say the tapes prove that the government used fraud to win past elections and that it was involved in serious crimes such as framing political opponents and interfering in the media, the election of judges and in judicial and prosecution decisions.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg [left] and Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski [right] | Photo by: nato.int
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Gruevski on Wednesday met NATO’s Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, in Brussels, who said the alliance was following developments in Skopje with concern.
“Progress on reforms depends on effective democratic dialogue, widespread confidence in the rule of law and freedom of media,” Stoltenberg told Gruevski, adding: “We count on you to ensure that they are fully respected.”
Stoltenberg encouraged all political forces in Macedonia to act responsibly and focus on the reforms necessary for progress in the country’s Euro-Atlantic agenda.