Macedonian Opposition Urges Protests as Negotiations Foiledby
Call follows cancellation of talks in Vienna with EU officals
Blanket pardon of wire-tap suspects draws EU criticism
The Republic of Macedonia’s main opposition party called for an expansion of street rallies after European Union officials canceled talks to try to fix the Balkan nation’s political crisis and censured officials for backsliding on the rule of law.
After Friday’s talks planned in Vienna were aborted, the opposition Social Democrats called on supporters to gather in each of Macedonia’s eight biggest cities “today and every day” until President Gjorge Ivanov reverses a blanket pardon of 56 suspects involved in a wiretapping scandal, party spokesman Petar Silegov said by phone from Skopje.
Ivanov’s pardon of police, government officials, and others over the wiretapping of about 20,000 people has intensified the worst political crisis in the landlocked country of 2.1 million in more than a decade. It has also brought criticism from EU officials, including Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn, who, in a statement with colleagues, urged officials to prepare the country for “credible elections” this year as agreed with the bloc and Macedonia’s main political forces in 2015.
“It’s a huge scandal that the president is shielding anyone from criminal responsibility,” Silegov said.
The allegations of wiretapping, whose victims included government officials and purportedly included evidence of abuse of power, began a year ago, leading to Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski’s resignation on Jan. 15. He’s now pushing for a June 5 snap election to end the crisis. Opposition parties have called for a boycott of the ballot, saying authorities have kept non-existent voters on electoral lists and placed limits on media freedom.
Hahn and European Parliament members Richard Howitt, Eduard Kukan and Ivo Vajgl said failure to adhere to the agreement among political parties would have “very serious consequences” and expressed "regret” about “retrograde steps that move the country further away from its aspirations toward” EU entry. They added that they were now forced to consider further actions, according to a joint statement published on Thursday, without giving details.
“The persisting rule of law issues in Skopje, which undermine this agreement, must be addressed without any further delay,” they said. “This concerns in particular the recent presidential pardon and the steps urgently required for the preparation of credible elections which could be recognized by the international community.”
The yield on 500 million euros ($563 million) of the government’s 2021 bonds rose two basis points, or 0.02 percentage point, to 4.7 percent, at 2:08 p.m. in Skopje, after reaching a six-month low earlier this week, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.