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EU Cancels Macedonia Crisis Talks in Vienna

The European Union has canceled a meeting between Macedonia's political leaders planned for Friday in Vienna aimed at salvaging the crisis deal from last summer.

The EU has confirmed that Friday’s planned meeting in Vienna of Macedonian party leaders, aimed at resolving the crisis in the country, will not now take place.

“We have consistently said that the breakdown of the Pržino Agreement [the EU-brokered crisis agreement of last year] would have serious consequences for the country. We would deeply regret any retrograde steps in Skopje that would move the country further away from its aspirations towards European Union accession,” spokesperson Maja Kocijancic said on Thursday.

She said that the EU remains “available to assist the parties now and in the future. But the responsibility to ensure democratic progress and to make headway on the Euro-Atlantic path rests with the parties themselves, on behalf of the citizens of their own country. They must now deliver”.

The crisis in Macedonia took a turn for the worse last week when President Gjorge Ivanov dramatically pardoned 56 politicians and their associates facing criminal investigation.

The pardon, mostly affecting politicians from the ruling parties that were being investigated by the Special Prosecution, outraged opposition supporters and prompted protests in the capital, Skopje, and in other towns, including Bitola, Strumica, Veles, Kumanovo, Ohrid, Prilep, Gostivar and Stip.

The Speaker of Parliament, Trajko Veljanovski, ramped the crisis up further last Friday when he confirmed the June 5 date of the general election. The date has been pushed by the ruling VMRO DPMNE party without the consent of the opposition.

Responding to criticism of the pardon, in a press release on Thursday, Ivanov said that legal experts had found “no legal grounds for anulling the pardon” but that they were continuing to work on the issue.

While the ruling VMRO DPMNE party said it accepted the call for the talks in Vienna, the opposition Social Democrats conditioned their participation on postponement of the elections and scrapping the President’s pardon.

The tension in Macedonia has continued to grow as protesters announce more rallies across Macedonia and as pro-government supporters announced a big counter-protest in Skopje.

Inflammatory calls on social networks for “a final showdown” with the opposition have added to concerns about violence.

Special Prosecution Launches Fresh Investigation

Meanwhile, the Special Prosecution, tasked with probing high-level crime, on Thursday opened a fresh investigation in a case in which former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski was heard last year discussing levelling a rival politicians’s building to the ground.

Macedonian special prosecutors | Photo by: MIA

The Special Prosecution, whose work has been undermined by the presidential pardon, suspects four persons, including a construction inspector in the Skopje municipality of Gazi Baba, of illegally flattening a residential building in 2011 owned by the businessman and politician Fiat Canovski. They are charged with “misuse in office” in a case dubbed as “TNT”.

The Deputy Special Prosecutor, Fatime Fetai, told Thursday’s press conference that the suspects were just following orders from their superiors.

Former Prime Minister and VMRO DPMNE party leader Gruevski, his former Transport Minister, Mile Janakieski, as well as the Mayor of Gazi Baba, Toni Trajkovski, were all included in the pardon issued by the President on April 12.

Because of this, the Special Prosecution said it cannot open a formal investigation into them although it believes that the demolition, which caused over 14 million euros’ worth of damage to Canovski, was done “under order and with support of the then highest state leadership”.

Fetai said there was evidence to suggest that Canovski’s building, destroyed with TNT under the pretext that it was higher than planning permits allowed, was an act of political retaliation.

This was because Canovski’s small party, the Party for European Future, PEI, had previously quit the ruling coalition led by Gruevski.

In one of last year’s so-called political “bombshells” that the opposition has published, Gruevski’s voice could be heard telling the Transport and Communications Minister Janakieski to demolish the building owned by Canovski.

Fetai meanwhile on Thursday said she wished to send a message “to all those who dishonestly undermine the work of the Special Prosecution and who are sending threats to its members and members of their families” that… “justice will catch up with all who broke the law”.

“We are going to selflessly fight for justice… because we believe that justice, and not impunity is a top national interest,” Fetai added.