Macedonia Gridlock Leaves EU’s Hahn Frustrated

After 12-hours of talks with political leaders in Skopje, European Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn said he was disappointed there was no deal on reforms.
EU Commissioner Johannes Hahn | Photo by: MIA

Commissioner Hahn told the media in Macedonia that despite the “bad day” of talks between government and opposition parties, he remained optimistic that a deal on the appointment of new ministers would be done.

Talks between the government of Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and the opposition were set to resume Tuesday.

“I am really disappointed that it was not able to have a deal on the reshuffle of the government, as was fixed in the June-July agreement,” Hahn said.

“They [political parties] had a couple of weeks to prepare everything but apparently it was not possible. But there are still some opportunities to have an agreement. I hope they have recognized the seriousness of the situation.”

Demanding “leadership” and “responsibility” from the political leaders, Hahn said that failure to overcome the logjam would reflect on the country’s European ambitions. The European Commission is to release its annual report on Macedonia by the end of this month.

Ilija Dimovski, member of the negotiating group of the ruling VMRO DPMNE party, said that there had been some “progress in bringing our standpoints on certain issues closer together.”

However, Zoran Zaev, head of the opposition Social Democrats, accused the ruling party of being “irrational” and of trying to “buy time until the last moment.

“I cannot understand…  how can someone spend eight or nine hours of 12 hours of talks on the importance of passing a law to ban the publication of the political ‘bombshells’ [batches of tapes released by the opposition since February]… [not] about the European future of the Macedonian people,” he said.

Hahn’s visit was an effort to untangle a complicated political gridlock that emerged after the opposition last week suspended its participation in the EU-facilitated crisis talks, accusing the government of undermining them.

The parties are more than two weeks overdue to reach a deal on an electoral reform package ahead of April early general elections.

The deadline for the appointment of ministers from the opposition was due to expire on Tuesday. The opposition is due to appoint the new Interior and Social Affairs ministers as well as several deputies in other ministries.

The opposition is also unhappy that last week the National Prosecutor’s Council cut in half the number of deputy prosecutors proposed by Katica Janeva, the newly appointed Special Prosecutor in charge of probing the illegal wiretapping ckaims

All these reforms and others are part of an EU-brokered political deal reached this summer aimed at ending the political crisis in Macedonia over the unlawful mass surveillance claims.

The opposition claims that the covertly recorded tapes that it has been releasing since February show that Gruevski was behind the illegal surveillance of some 20,000 people, including ministers.

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