News

Macedonia Opposition Suspends Crisis Talks with Govt

Macedonia’s opposition suspended its participation in the EU-brokered crisis talks after only half the team of the special prosecutor that will probe illegal surveillance cases was approved, delaying the investigation again.

Opposition leader Zoran Zaev | Photo by: MIA

The opposition Social Democrats, SDSM, said they were withdrawing from the talks after the National Prosecutors Council on Wednesday gave the green light to just seven out of the 14 proposed deputy special prosecutors who will investigate alleged mass illegal wiretapping by the Macedonian authorities.

“For us the [crisis] agreement is no longer active… We are retreating from the talks to consultations inside the party. We will announce our next steps tomorrow,” SDSM leader Zoran Zaev told BIRN.

The opposition insists that the move was the government’s doing and a breach of the EU-brokered political deal reached this summer aimed at ending the political crisis in Macedonia that was sparked by the unlawful mass surveillance claims.

“We are seriously thinking of leaving the talks because there is no point in resuming something that the government is blocking in each possible way,” a high-ranking SDSM official told BIRN earlier under condition of anonymity.

The National Prosecutors Council session was already two weeks late and came only after the European Union delegation to Skopje and the United States embassy urged it on Tuesday to stop delaying and allow the team proposed by recently-appointed Special Prosecutor Katica Janeva to start working as soon as possible.

Just minutes before the opposition threatened to leave, the EU facilitator in the inter-party talks, former Belgian MP Peter Vanhoutte, came out to tell media what was supposed to be a good news, that the parties have finally reached an agreement over the problematic package of electoral reforms ahead of next April’s snap general polls.

The deadline for an agreement on this expired on October 6 and the government and the opposition exchanged barbs over who was to blame for the failure.

Amid the fresh turmoil, the European parliament’s special rapporteur for Macedonia, Slovenian MEP Ivo Vajgl, announced he would visit the country on Thursday, in an effort to boost mediation between the warring politicians.

Meanwhile Macedonia’s Public Prosecutor Marko Zvrlevski said on Wednesday that he felt insulted by the formation of a parallel special prosecution and accused it, not his administration, of being politicised.

“When you have a political deal for [appointing] someone… the passing of a law and a demand to appoint someone else contrary to any rules and laws, then, that is a politicised prosecution,” Zvrlevski told media.

He also said the Constitutional Court should rule whether the Law on the Special Prosecution is in line with the country’s constitution.

Media reported on Wednesday meanwhile that the new law is already being disputed at the Constitutional Court by one Macedonian lawyer.

Tome Todorovski, a lawyer from the small town of Sveti Nikole, told Telma TV that he has asked for the suspension of the work of the special prosecution until the court rules whether it is acceptable under the constitution.

Macedonia’s feuding parties clinched a deal on a new Law on the Special Prosecution and on appointing Janeva on September 15.

The deal was aimed at ending the political crisis in Macedonia which centres on opposition claims that covert tapes they have been releasing since February show that Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski was behind the illegal surveillance of some 20,000 people, including ministers. 

Gruevski, who has held power since 2006, has strongly denied the charges and insists the tapes were “fabricated” by unnamed foreign intelligence services and given to the opposition to destabilise the country.