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European Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele, European Parliament Rapporteur on Macedonia Richard Howitt and the former President of the European Parliament Jerzy Buzek will arive in Skopje on Thursday on a mission to end the political stalemate.
Macedonian government building
The three top officials are on a “joint urgent mission” to try to end the political crisis in the country and re-start the stalled EU accession process, Howitt’s office said.
“Our joint presence, Parliament and Commission together, parliamentarians from both main political parties, shows Europe is united in saying now is the time for the divisions in Skopje to end," Howitt said.
After arriving to Skopje, the trio will meet government and opposition leaders. Fuele, who is leading the visit, is due to hold a press conference on Friday.
The visit comes after it became clear that government and opposition were nowhere near reaching a deal that would ensure the participation of the opposition in the March local elections, or the return of its legislators to parliament.
At a party’s central board meeting on Tuesday, the opposition Social Democrats said a decision to boycott the local elections was final. The ruling VMRO DPMNE party said only that it regretted the move.
The ruling party did not accept the main opposition demand, which was to organize parallel early general elections.
After the ruling party this week offered to postpone local elections for one week, a new unofficial deadline to reach a deal is set for Sunday, March 3. The opposition has until then to change its mind and submit its lists of candidates.
The Social Democrats launched their boycott of parliament on December 24, after the government parties passed a budget for 2013 in only minutes, after opposition MPs and journalists were expelled from the chamber.
The crisis deepened when the opposition refused to submit a list of mayoral candidates by the a February 24 deadline, after the government of Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski rejected their calls to postpone the local elections, or call an early general election.
The crisis threatens to derail Macedonia's EU agenda, as the EU Council has said that any decision on opening accession talks for Macedonia will be based on the next report of the European Commission.
This will assess whether Macedonia has taken real steps towards reaching a deal with Greece over its name, to which Athens objects, whether it has improved relations with Bulgaria and has carried out reforms at home.
Vlado Buckovski has announced the formation of a new party that will seek to supplant the main opposition Social Democrats - if the latter do not change their style and leadership.
Donors spent hundreds of thousands of euro building a new museum in Gjirokastra - but the results were questionable and it ultimately closed over an ideological dispute.