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INTERVIEW 17 May 17

US Expects Zaev to Form New Macedonian Government

US State Department official Hoyt Yee, who is currently touring the Balkans, said that the Macedonian President understands that he is expected to give Zoran Zaev a chance to form a government.

Jeta Xharra
BIRN
Pristina
Hoyt Brian Yee. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Hoyt Brian Yee, US Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs, said that he believes that the President of Macedonia Gjorge Ivanov will “do the right thing” and give the new majority leader, Social Democrat Zoran Zaev, the mandate to form a government.

“The president, with whom I met and had a very good discussion, understands our expectations. We expect the government, the president, to do what is necessary according to democratic norms,“ Yee said in an interview for Life in Kosovo, a programme produced by BIRN Kosovo.

When asked whether he thinks that Ivanov will give the mandate to the majority that formed following the December 11 elections, Yee said he believes that the President “will do the right thing in the end.”

“We believe that is to give the mandate to the coalition which has the majority in the parliament, so that the government can form and begin addressing and passing the kind of reforms needed so Macedonia can move forward on its democratic path,“ he said.

Just two days before Friday’s expiry of the presidential ten-day deadline to award the mandate to form a new government, Ivanov's cabinet is silent over the topic. The official deadline for Ivanov was set last week when the new parliament speaker, Talat Xhaferi, sent him a notice, informing him of the existing majority.
 
The Social Democrats, who lead the parliament majority with 67 MPs in the 120-seat parliament, have meanwhile said that they would wait for Ivanov until Friday at the latest.

Party spokesperson Petre Shilegov said that if the Social Democrats don’t receive the mandate they would have to "honour the will of the majority of voters" and elect a new government without the green light from the president.

The US diplomat also addressed the issue of letters sent from members of Congress to the Department of State, asking questions about US policies in Macedonia, saying this is a “very normal process.”

Several Republican party Senators asked whether US taxpayers’ money is used to back the activities of billionaire George Soros’ Open Society Foundation in Macedonia.

“Some of the letters were based on misinformation, false rumors, which members of Congress have every right to pass on to us and ask us if this is true or not. In most cases the answer is – this is not true, or [it is] a misunderstanding,“ Yee said.

"George Soros’ name is often mentioned as a kind of code [implying] that somehow there is a conspiracy, or wider plan orchestrated by Mr. Soros, which is simply not true,“ he added, warning that the lies can “take [on] a life of their own“ through social media.

Asked about Russia’s influence in the region, Yee said that in some cases it undermines peace, giving the example of alleged coup in Montenegro during the elections in October 2016.

“At times we’ve seen the interference [...] from Russia to be sufficiently serious that it could risk security and stability,“ he said, adding that most governments in the region are aware that Russia is attempting to extend this kind of influence, and are taking measures to become less vulnerable.

According to him, when a country’s institutions – judiciary, law enforcement, media – are strong, it is more difficult for Russia or any other force or country to have “malevolent influence.“

“We have recognised from the beggining, many years ago, that the best way to strengthen the security and stability of the region is to help the countries integrate with the EU and NATO,“ Yee said.

He dismissed claims that Serbia’s prime minister and president-elect, Aleksndar Vucic, is being allowed to rule as an autocrat, as long as he meets certain international obligations.

“I don’t believe any leader in the Balkans is being given a blank check, a carte blanche, by either American or European diplomats,“ Yee said.

Asked if he criticised Vucic over his control of the media during the presidential elections of April 2, Yee said that in most cases diplomatic messages are convayed in private.

“If you consulted with Mr. Vucic and others, I’m sure they’d be happy to cite for you the times when we’ve made public statements that make clear when we have dissagreements with governments,“ Yee said, adding that the reverse is also true.

“Leaders of this region are not shy about letting us know when they disagree with us, publicly or privately. That is a kind of dialogue we welcome. What we expect is sincere, transparent, honest communication, whether it’s in private or in public,“ he said.

Yee also said that every government in the Western Balkans has at some point demonstrated leadership qualities, taking steps that may not have been easy, but were necessary.

Journalist Filip Rudic also contributed to this article.

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