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News 03 Apr 17

EU's Tusk Fails to Budge Macedonia's President

European Council President Donald Tusk during his trip to Macedonia on Monday failed to persuade Macedonia's President to end his blockade on the formation of an opposition-led government.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Skopje
Donald Tusk [left] and Gjorge ivanov [right]. Photo: Beta

A tete-a-tete between EU Council President Donald Tusk and Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov in Skopje ended without a breakthrough after Tusk failed to persuade Ivanov to award a mandate for the formation of a new government to the opposition Social Democrat leader Zoran Zaev.

Zaev and his coalition allies have mustered a majority in Macedonia's parliament.

Tusk came with a clear message, advocating a peaceful transfer of power and the rapid formation of a new government.

"This protracted crisis is holding your country back from the Euro-Atlantic path. It is for you to find a solution based on democratic principles, decency and common sense," Tusk told Ivanov at a joint press conference in Skopje.

"Only such a solution can be a lasting one. When you find it you can count on our support," Tusk stated.

But Ivanov remained obdurate, saying that his position "remains unchanged" and that he had not awarded the mandate to Zaev as a preventive measure.

"My decision is preventive and serves to prevent any detrimental consequences that we might encounter," Ivanov said, reiterating that awarding the mandate to Zaev would endanger the country owing to his alleged acceptance of a set of ethnic Albanian demands known as the "Albanian platform".

Ethnic Albanians make up over a quarter of the population of the country, concentrated in the west of the country.

Tusk included Macedonia crisis in a tour of the region that was primarily focused on the migrant crisis, following Turkey's threats to scrap its agreement with the EU and allow a new wave of refugees and migrants to head westwards.

"We remain ready to respond to your needs on the ground," Tusk told Ivanov, regarding the migrant threat.

Former Polish statesman Tusk was visiting Macedonia for the third time in two years. His visit comes shortly after Ivanov on March 22 avoided meeting EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn who was then on a crisis-solving mission to Macedonia.

Because of the standoff over Zaev, Macedonia has not formed a government since early general elections took place in December last year. The polls were held in the hope that a two-year-long political crisis centering on allegations of government corruption could be resolved.

The crisis took a turn for the worse on March 1 when Ivanov refused to offer Zaev the mandate to form a government despite the opposition leader having secured a majority in parliament.

Ivanov, reflecting the stance of the former ruling VMRO DPMNE party, which backed his election as president and had been in power since 2006, said Zaev’s alleged acceptance of the "Albanian Platform" might destroy Macedonia.

Macedonia's Albanian parties have listed a number of conditions for their participation in any new government, starting with increased official use of the Albanian language and a more equal distribution of resources to the country's regions.

Tusk's visit came amid filibustering by VMRO DPMNE MPs in parliament aimed at stalling the election of a new speaker of parliament, and amid streets protests by VMRO-DPMNE supporters against the announced formation of an opposition-led government.

The opposition hopes that once a new speaker is elected, President Ivanov will have no more excuses not to grant Zaev the mandate, as his constitutional role is mainly ceremonial and he has no actual right to veto the formation of a new government.

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