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A deal has been struck to end the political crisis, EU representatives said in Skopje on Friday, following talks with Macedonia's feuding leaders.
Talks were held in the presidential residence | Photo by: Darko Duridanski
Macedonia's opposition has agreed to end its parliamentary boycott and take part in local elections slated for later this month.
The government has agreed to launch talks with the opposition on defining the time for the next general election after the end of the local election, and to start a debate about democratic freedoms in the country.
Meanwhile, a commission of experts should investigate the incident in parliament on December 24 that triggered the political crisis. The findings will inform an important European Commission report on Macedonia due in spring.
“This is a deal which has been struck late but I hope and believe it is not too late”, the European Parliament Rapporteur on Macedonia, Richard Howitt, said in Skopje on Friday.
He spoke after talks with Macedonian leaders that had lasted since early morning.
Howitt announced the agreement on behalf of the joint European delegation which brokered the deal, also comprising the EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule and the former President of the European Parliament, Jerzy Buzek.
"We are pleased to see the political leaders have finally been able to show their political responsibility and courage to agree on a solution which should bring the country back to the resumption of normal functioning of the political institutions and continuing constructive work on its Euro-Atlantic priorities," a joint statement from the trio said.
The trio held a morning meeting with the Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and then met the opposition Social Democratic leader Branko Crvenkovski at the EU office. Later, they all continued talks in the presidential villa where Howitt announced the deal.
MEP Richard Howitt announced a deal has been made | Photo by: Darko Duridanski
The deal comes after months of opposition parliamentary boycotts and street protests.
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 a February 24 deadline, after the government of Prime Minister Gruevski rejected their calls to postpone the local elections, or call an early general election.
The crisis threatened 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.
International representatives are stepping up pressure for a last-minute compromise to end Macedonia's political crisis and re-start the stalled EU accession process.
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