Comment 10 Oct 17

Europe Must Support ‘Winds of Change’ in Macedonia

As the new government under Zoran Zaev makes welcome moves towards openness and transparency, it’s time for Europe and NATO to respond with support and encouragement.

Erwan Fouéré
BIRN
Macedonia's new government. Photo: MIA

In the four months since Zoran Zaev was elected Prime Minister of Macedonia at the head of a coalition led by his Social Democratic Union, SDSM, the winds of change have swept across the country.

Gone is the fear and intimidation that the previous regime, led by Nikola Gruevski and his VMRO-DPMNE party, used to maintain an iron grip over all the institutions of the state and of society for 11 years.

The contrast to the situation before the change of government is sharp. One can feel the difference in atmosphere merely by walking the streets of the capital, Skopje. People talk freely, without looking over their shoulders to check who is listening.

The new government has thrown open the doors of power hitherto kept shut and shrouded in secrecy.

It has launched an open dialogue with civil society organisations and the media and promoted an inclusive, transparent approach to governance. It has replaced the language of confrontation and insults used by the previous regime with one of tolerance and respect.

It has even opened prisons to visiting journalists for the first time, following the first visit to a jail of a Prime Minister, who wanted to see for himself the overcrowded conditions at Idrizivo prison outside Skopje – conditions that the Council of Europe has repeatedly condemned.

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