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News 27 Jun 14

EU Mediation Proposed in Macedonia Political Row

Macedonia’s ruling party is ready to accept Brussels’ mediation in an attempt to resolve its post-election dispute with the opposition, which is boycotting parliament after alleging poll fraud.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic

Macedonian government building

The ruling VMRO DPMNE party of Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski has said it is willing to accept European mediation in further talks with the opposition Social Democrats, SDSM, after a first attempt at dialogue made no progress.

The VMRO DPMNE is willing to accept a “mediator or facilitator if you will, coming from Brussels”, a well-informed party source told Balkan Insight under condition of anonymity.

“We certainly hope there will be more talks in the future and we welcome all attempts for help, but at this moment I cannot say whether Brussels would appoint someone to mediate in future meetings,” the source said.

The first, unmediated meeting between Gruevski and Zoran Zaev of the SDSM on Tuesday ended shortly after it began, without success.

The main obstacle was the opposition demand for the formation of a caretaker government, which was flatly rejected by Gruevski.

The two leaders then left the meeting and did not specify whether they would meet again to try to end the crisis that erupted when the opposition disputed the April elections. 

The dispute, which has seen the opposition boycott parliament, could damage Macedonia's EU and NATO membership hopes.

The failure of the first talks came as no surprise as it was widely predicted beforehand that the Prime Minister would not accept the opposition demands.

The SDSM delivered five conditions which included the formation of a caretaker government, the separation of party and state activities, better regulation of the media, improvements to electoral laws and a national census to determine how many voters there are.

The executive committee of VMRO DPMNE at its last meeting on Wednesday backed its leader by concluding that the SDSM demand for a caretaker government was “completely unacceptable”.

In a recent interview for NOVA TV, EU enlargement commissioner Stefan Fuele avoided answering directly whether Brussels was considering whether to send anyone to aid the talks’ progress.

“One important additional message at this moment is the need for constructive dialogue between, and mature political behaviour by, all political parties and actors,” Fuele said.

For the past several years in its annual report on Macedonia, the European Commission has recommended the start of EU accession talks for the country. However, this has not happened so far due to the Greek blockade over the unresolved bilateral ‘name’ dispute.

Fuele said he did not wish to predict whether the next annual report, due in October, would continue to recommend the start of EU accession talks in light of the recent political disputes.

“Current concerns are more about the risk of backtracking on a number of previously advanced areas.  For instance, how media freedom and media culture can be improved, how judicial independence and the quality of justice which citizens expect can be ensured and about having a constructive political atmosphere; on all of which, as I explained to the Prime Minister, I expect to see progress,” Fuele said.

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