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NEWS 03 May 17

Zaev's 'Nationalist' Jibe Riles Serbian Ministers

Macedonian opposition leader Zoran Zaev has drawn a furious reaction from Serbian ministers following his interview for the media in which he called Serbia's PM a nationalist.

Filip Rudic
Zoran Zaev. Photo: Beta/AP/Boris Grdanoski

Serbian government ministers have condemned the leader of Macedonia’s main opposition Social Democratic Party, Zoran Zaev, for saying that the leadership of Serbia was nationalistic, accusing him of taking his orders from Albania.

"Serbia is under the nationalist leadership of [Aleksandar] Vucic, who promoted himself as a regional leader, but as soon as his own political career came under threat his nationalistic positions revealed themselves," Zaev told the Serbian tabloid Kurir on Wednesday.

Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic described the statement as a "brutal and scandalous attack" on Prime Minister Vucic and his government.

"Why did Zaev attack Vucic instead of [Albanian PM Edi] Rama and [Kosovo President Hashim] Thaci?" he asked.

"He knows that the concept of Greater Albania is not complete without [the Macedonian capital] Skopje," Dacic said in a statement for Tanjug, Serbia’s state owned news agency.

Serbian Labour Minister Aleksandar Vulin meanwhile wondered whether Zaev's "attack" on Vucic was his own idea, or whether he had been "instructed by Rama, Thaci or [Macedonian ethnic Albanian parliament speaker Talat] Xhaferi".

Macedonia's ruling VMRO DPMNE party has accused Zaev of endangering the country’s sovereignty by accepting some demands set by Macedonia's ethnic Albanian parties, such as extending the official use of Albanian language.

Serbia's own relations with Albania and Kosovo - never good - recently deteriorated when Rama and Thaci hinted at the possibility of their two countries forming a union if the EU turned its back on the Balkans.

VMRO DPMNE's accusations against Zaev have been widely echoed in the Serbian media, which accuse Albania and ethnic Albanians in Macedonia of seeking Macedonia's destruction, terrorism and the creation of a "Greater Albania" with the help of the West.

Supporters of VMRO DPMNE stormed the Macedonian parliament last Thursday to prevent the election of Talat Xhaferi as the speaker.

Macedonian president Gjorge Ivanov has been blocking the formation of a new Social Democrat-led coalition government under Zaev since March 1, when he refused to offer him a mandate, despite Zaev having mustered the support of at least 67 of the 120 MPs in parliament.

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