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News 29 Oct 15

EU Urged to Engage More in Macedonia Crisis

The EU must abandon its technocratic approach and become more directly involved in solving the crisis in Macedonia, panelists in Belgrade said.

Sasa Dragojlo

The EU need to be more proactive in solving the crisis in Macedonia and abandon its “technocratic approach”, speakers told a conference called “The potential internal instability in the Republic of Macedonia” on Wednesday in Belgrade.

Aleksandra Joksimovic, president of the Center for Foreign Policy, said the EU needed to be more directly involved in solving Macedonia's “frozen instability.

“The EU as a factor of stability is just a phrase for Macedonians. The international community is leaving the problem to be solved by itself but that is not going to happen…The technocratic approach of the EU is one of the problems,” Joksimovic said.

The latest crisis revolves around allegations that the government has engaged in mass illegal surveillance.

Last week, EU mediator Peter Vanhoutte said an EU-brokered crisis deal would be dead - and Macedonia could find itself as isolated as Belarus - if leaders failed to agree on key reforms.

The talks on reforms are part of the EU-brokered political deal reached this summer aimed at ending the crisis over the unlawful mass surveillance allegations.

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

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

Sonja Biserko, director of Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia, said Macedonian instability was part of a wider regional and global crisis.

“The situation in the region shows that instability is worse now than 10 years ago. The Macedonian crisis is just a part of a regional crisis. The instability is also generated because of the intersection of US and Russia interests in the Balkans,” Biserko said.

The panelists also highlighted  the importance of ethnic relations in the region.

They stressed the need also to solve the dispute between Greece and Macedonia about Macedonia's name, which is one of the conditions for the country's EU integration.

They referred also to violent events in the northern town of Kumanovo on May 9 and 10, when gun battles raged between police and a previously unknown armed group, which left eight policemen dead and some 37 wounded.

The incident created new animosity between the large ethnic Albanian minority and Macedonians, although the background to the actual incident remains unclear.

Aleksandar Popov, president of the Center for Regionalism, criticized the Ohrid agreement of 2001 on Macedonia because he said it had created a “segregative multiculturalism”, which had led to the ghettoization of ethnic minorities.

“Segregative multiculturalism is something we got from that agreement. The communities do not live with each other, they live next to each other,” Popov said.

The internationally brokered Ohrid agreement was signed between the Macedonian government and ethnic Albanian insurgents in Macedonia on August 13, 2001.

It ended the conflict between the self-styled National Liberation Army and the Macedonian security forces.

Among other points, the agreement made Albanian an official language where more than 20 per cent of the population at municipal level speak it.

Macedonia has been an EU member candidate since 2005. The EU recommended opening accession talks in 2009 and has done so each year since then. However, no date has been set for membership talks due to the dispute with Greece over its name.  

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