Macedonian Leaders Agree to Hold Early Vote, Boosting EU Hopes

The Republic of Macedonia’s main parties agreed to European Union proposals to hold early elections next year, offering a way out of a crisis that threatened to dash the country’s hopes of accession to the 28-member bloc.

The vote is set for April 24, 2016, EU Commissioner Johannes Hahn said after meeting Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and opposition leaders in the capital Skopje, according to a statement on the EU executive’s website. Under the accord, also signed by the chiefs of two ethnic-Albanian parties, the opposition Social Democrats led by Zoran Zaev will return to parliament. The parties also agreed to name a special prosecutor to probe wire-tapping accusations against the government.

“We welcome the political leaders’ strong commitment to Euro-Atlantic integration and the European perspective,” the commission said in the statement. “This is an important step in overcoming the current crisis and toward addressing key challenges facing the country.”

The former Yugoslav nation was plunged into its worst political crisis in a decade when Zaev leaked what he said were wire taps that show abuse of power by government officials, including Gruevski. The administration, which denies wrongdoing, faced further woes in May when police clashed with armed groups the government described as Albanian terrorists in the northeastern town of Kumanovo, leaving 22 dead.

Special Prosecutor

The yield on Macedonia’s July 2021 bonds advanced 6 basis points to 4.88 percent at 10:42 a.m. in Skopje, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The yield reached a record high of 5.11 on July 8, data show.

The parties agreed that Gruevski’s cabinet will resign by year-end and enable a new government to be sworn in on Jan. 15, with the sole task of organizing early elections. The special prosecutor will be named by Sept. 15 this year to probe the wire-tapping accusations, the accord says.

The pact is “of crucial importance” for Macedonia’s EU path and the country can now expect to receive approval to start accession talks after almost a decade of preparations, Ivo Vajgl, a Slovenian member of the European assembly who was present at the meeting in Skopje, said in an e-mailed statement.

Macedonia’s EU aspirations have been hampered by neighboring Greece, which objects to the use of the name Macedonia that is also a northern province of the Mediterranean country.

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