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Peter Sorensen starts work this week as new head of the EU Delegation to Macedonia, replacing the outgoing Erwan Fouere.
Peter Sorensen takes over as EU ambassador to Macedonia this week at a sensitive time, as government and opposition wrestle over the date of expected early elections.
Sorensen has a hard task ahead, especially in maintaining relations with the populist government of Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski.
They spatted often with Sorensen's Irish predecessor, Erwan Fouere, over the latter's frank criticisms.
Sorensen knows the region well. He was a personal representative to the former EU foreign policy chief in Belgrade. He headed the EU Office in Pristina, Kosovo, from 2002 to 2006.
“He will inherit a legacy of [government] attacks on his predecessor,” the member of the National Council for European Integration and opposition legislator, Andrej Zernovski, warned.
Zernovski said the right-of-centre government is not used to taking criticism and he was likely to become the next target of their attacks.
Sorensen’s predecessor, Fouere, has been in the post since November 2005. His mandate was extended twice for a six-month period, making him the longest serving EU representative in Macedonia.
Fouere came to the country just before Macedonia obtained EU candidate status, at a time when Macedonia's path towards EU membership seemed safe. He quickly became a popular foreign representative.
But in the years that followed, Macedonia was increasingly criticised by the EU for alleged failure to reform. Fouere’s trenchant criticism of the government made him the least favourite ambassador among officials of Gruevski's VMRO DPMNE party. They accused him of aligning himself with the opposition Social Democrats.
After his term in Macedonia ends, the 64-year-old Irishman heads towards retirement. He recently said that he regrets that he is leaving his post before Macedonia's starts EU accession talks.
After noting insuficient reforms for several years in a row, the European Commission in late 2009 extended its recommendation for a start to accession talks.
But Macedonia's unresolved dispute with Greece over its name has prevented the EU from putting this recommendation in to effect.
Fouere ran a double office in Macedonia, serving also as EU special envoy in charge of monitoring implementation of the 2001 Ohrid Peace Accord.
The deal is credited with having saved the country from all-out ethnic warfare, by conceding more rights to the country’s large ethnic Albanian minority. This post is now going to be scrapped.
Ruling party official's verbal assault on the EU ambassador will only harm the country's European prospects, opposition says.
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.