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Government and opposition leaders have blamed each other for Macedonia's political impasse in replies to the EU Enlargement Commissioner's appeal for an end to the crisis.
Enlargment Commissioner, Stefan Fuele
Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and the head of opposition Social Democrats, Branko Crvenkovski, confirmed having received letters from Stefan Fuele - but blamed each other for the continuing logjam.
Gruevski had replied that the government was open to new ideas for a solution, government spokesperson Aleksandar Gjorgiev said.
“Despite our openness and readiness for dialogue, we face an unserious and irrational approach from the other side,” Gjorgiev said, citing Gruevski’s reply.
For their part, the Social Democrats said they had been constructive all along, and the responsibility for the crisis lay with the government and the Prime Minister.
“Now is the time for Gruevski to do what he is supposed to,” the party vice president Zoran Jovanovski said, referring to their call to postpone March local elections, or hold them in tandem with early general elections.
In two separate letters addressed to Gruevski and Crvenkovski, Commissioner Fuele expressed “deep concern” about “lack of progress” in ending the political stalemate in Macedonia, which erupted in December.
The Social Democrats launched a boycott of parliament on December 24, after the government parties passed a budget for 2013 in only minutes, and after opposition MPs and journalists were kicked out of the chamber.
Fuele’s spokesperson, Peter Stano, said on Thursday that Fuele had urged the two leaders “to rapidly reach a compromise that puts the country back on its Euro-Atlantic path, which is currently threatened”.
Stano said Fuele was ready to visit Skopje as soon as the leaders showed more willingness to make progress.
“We are ready to engage in finding a political solution together with the stakeholders… provided we find readiness among them to engage. This, unfortunately, is not the case right now,” Stano said.
Last week, the political crisis deepened when the opposition refused to submit a list of mayoral candidates for the March elections by a Saturday deadline.
Fuele has already cancelled a visit to Macedonia planned for this week, during which he was due to discuss the reform process.
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.
It 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.
Opposition legislators have meanwhile conditionally deposited their resignations to the parliament, to be put in to effect on election day, March 24, should the government keep ignoring their demand for snap general elections.
However, the resignation of the 42 opposition MPs in the 123-seat parliament will not automatically trigger an early election as parliament can function without them.
Earlier in February, Macedonia's ruling VMRO-DPMNE party said that if opposition MPs resigned, elections would be held only for the 42 vacant seats, not the rest.
Meanwhile, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle arrives in the country on Friday, and will also try to help in the ongoing stalemate.
Macedonia’s ruling VMRO DPMNE party has rubbished reports that the EU seeks a postponement of the March local elections.
In two high-profile war crimes trials currently ongoing in Pristina, a series of witnesses have retracted previous statements alleging abuse at Kosovo Liberation Army detention centres.