January 22, 2013
By Sinisa Jakov Marusic
Macedonia’s Prime Minister, Nikola Gruevski, head of the main ruling VMRO DPMNE party, has called for a face-to-face meeting with opposition leader Branko Crvenkovski of the Social Democrats, which the latter has accepted.
“Macedonia has faced all sorts of challenges, which it managed to solve… through wise and responsible behaviour… and become stronger because of it,” Gruevski wrote in his invitation on Monday.
“Aware for the deep political crisis… [and] in order to create an ambience for the successful integration of the country into the EU and NATO, I accept your invitation,” Crvenkovski replied.
The direct talks between the leaders would be the first since a political crisis in Macedonia escalated on December 24 when government parties passed a budget for 2013 in only minutes, after opposition MPs were kicked out of parliament.
The day saw a tense stand-off in Skopje between several thousand pro- and anti-government protesters, separated by a police cordon.
Opposition MPs have since quit parliament and called on supporters to stage acts of civil disobedience against the government, which they call undemocratic.
After New Year, the opposition said it would only take part in the March local elections if the ministers in charge of police, justice and finance were changed and parallel general elections were also held.
Gruevski’s party has ruled out holding early parliamentary elections along with local ones.
Meanwhile, the opposition on Monday intensified road blockades in the capital and around the country.
Instead of one, the opposition blocked three key junctions in Skopje at midday, and said it would continue to do so until a deal was reached.
Last week, during a meeting with the visiting EU head for enlargement, Stefano Sannino, the Social Democrat leader, Crvenkovski, asked the EU not to turn a blind eye to the continuing political crisis.
Sannino also met with Prime Minister Gruevski but left the country without giving a statement.
Media reports talks of a possible plan to overcome the stalemate being pushed by EU and US representatives.
Citing unnamed diplomats, the daily newspaper Dnevnik said the plan might involve postponing the local elections from March to June, when a parallel general election would be held to satisfy opposition demands. In exchange, the opposition would return to parliament and end its roadblocks.
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