news 18 Sep 15

Hahn Revives 'Accession Dialogue' in Macedonia

Implementation of the agreement on ending Macedonia's political crisis will be crucial for the next European Commission Report on Macedonia, Enlargement Commissioner Hahn warns.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic

 EU Enlargement Commissioner, Johannes Hahn in Skopje | Photo by: MIA

In Skopje on Friday, Johannes Hahn is expected to kick start the so-called High Level Accession Dialogue, HLAD, which was launched in 2012 to keep Macedonia’s EU agenda alive but which has been interrupted by the deepening political crisis.

During his visit to parliament, Hahn said that agreement on electoral reforms should be implemented ahead of the April elections, adding that the Commission will monitor this process more closely than usual.

Hahn also said that the newly appointed Special Prosecutor should "get all the necessary support" in order to be able to function as intended.

He reiterated EU concern about political influence over the judiciary and media. Macedonian judges are well trained and know their job, he said, but "should be left to do their job".

Commissioner Hahn will hold meetings with political leaders, including Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, as well as with members of civil society.

He is to attend the plenary session between Brussels and Macedonia, which will examine the country's progress in implementing EU reforms within the frameworks of the HLAD.

Later, Hahn is to visit the refugee transit centre in Gevgelija, on Macedonia's southern border with Greece.

Before arriving, Hahn greeted Wednesday's appointment of a Special Prosecutor who will investigate the massive illegal surveillance cases that triggered the political crisis.

The deal on the prosecutor was struck at EU-facilitated talks between the government and opposition.

Hahn warned that while he was happy that the parties met the September 15 deadline, "this is not the end of story" and more needs to be done.

The September 15 deadline on appointment of the Special Prosecutor was agreed as part of the EU crisis agreement brokered this summer by Hahn himself.

Inter-party talks are supposed to iron out the details about implementing the deal. As part of the deal, the opposition earlier this month returned to parliament, ending a 15-month boycott.

However, parties are yet to agree on cleaning up the voting roll, the formation of several commissions, enabling the media to work impartially and other issues.

The crisis agreement also includes the appointment of ministers from the ranks of the opposition as well as Gruevski's resignation in December, 100 days before the snap polls.

Before coming to Macedonia, Hahn said that the tone of this year's European Commission report will largely depend on implementation of the crisis agreement.

In about one month, the Commission is due to publish its annual progress report on Macedonia. The authorities for hope for a seventh consecutive recommendation of a start to EU accession talks.

Despite positive reports this far, Macedonia had not been able to start the talks due to the blockade by Greece, which objects to Macedonia's name.

The political crisis in Macedonia revolves around allegations of mass illegal surveillance.

The opposition Social Democrats say that tapes which they have been releasing since February showed that Prime Minister Gruevski and his cousin, the former secret police chief Saso Mijalkov, were behind the illegal surveillance of some 20,000 people, including government ministers.

The tapes appeared to reveal the government's direct involvement in various wrongdoings, including election fraud and abuse of the justice system and media.

Gruevski, who has been in power since 2006, has insisted that the compromising tapes were “created” by unnamed foreign intelligence services and given to the opposition to destabilise the country.

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