|Hungary’s premier Viktor Orban and Macedonia’s former PM Nikola Gruevski. Photo: EPA/Georgi Licovski|
After the Macedonian Interior Ministry said former prime minister Nikola Gruevski had fled to Hungary and was applying for political asylum there, an EU spokesperson told BIRN that Brussels was following events and hoped the case would not be politicised.
“This is a judicial procedure that must not be politicised,” the EU spokesperson’s office told BIRN in a written reply. It added that the Commission does not comment in detail on ongoing judicial procedures.
“The rule of law is a fundamental principle of the European Union, for Member States and candidate countries alike. We expect all parties concerned to act strictly in line with the relevant rules,” the statement underlined.
On Tuesday, after it was reported that Gruevski had fled to Hungary rather than serve a two-year jail sentence, and was applying for political asylum there, the authorities announced that they would issue an international arrest warrant and demand his extradition.
Police issued an arrest warrant for Gruevski on Monday after he failed to turn up at a prison to serve his two-year jail sentence for the illicit purchase of a luxury limousine.
Gruevski was prime minister of Macedonia from 2006 to 2016. His VMRO DPMNE party, which is member of the centre-right European People’s Party, EPP, was ousted in 2017 after a prolonged political crisis in which he and his associates were accused of authoritarian rule and corruption.
Macedonia’s news agency MIA reported on October 11 that the EPP might exclude VMRO DPMNE from its caucus for its hostile stance towards the deal reached with Greece on changing its name.
However, Gruevski’s decision to seek asylum in Hungary might also damage the already weakened relationships between the EPP and Orban’s ruling Fidesz party, which is also member of the EPP.
A November 7 Reuters report said the EPP, which has been criticized for its soft stance on Orban’s controversial policies, was considering expelling his party “due to concern over its record on the rule of law and democratic freedoms”.
The Hungarian prime minister’s office has so far refused to confirm or deny Gruevski’s presence in the country.