By Sinisa Jakov Marusic
After a failed attempt to summon Macedonia’s political leaders to talks in Vienna, the EU is preparing a fresh push to settle the escalating Macedonian political crisis.
EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn, in a letter sent to the leaders of Macedonia’s four main political parties during the Orthodox Easter and May Day holidays, calls for renewed talks.
The letter, whose contents were published by Alsat M TV and confirmed to BIRN by a high-ranking source in the main opposition Social Democratic party, SDSM, urges all sides to “renew the dialogue” and find a “compromise solution” for the crisis.
“The letter also urges a completion of all the urgent reform priorities like the purification of the electoral roll and reforms in the media, so that we can have the minimum preconditions for truly fair elections” the party source told BIRN under condition of anonymity.
Thus far, all four political parties, including the main ruling VMRO DPMNE of former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, have been officially silent about the letter. Unofficially, the parties are expected to respond on Tuesday, after the holidays in Macedonia.
The crisis in Macedonia deepened on April 12 when President Gjorge Ivanov abruptly halted criminal investigations into 56 politicians and their associates, most of whom come from the ranks of VMRO DPMNE.
The president’s move, and VMRO DPMNE’s insistence on elections in June, have sparked massive pro- and anti-government protests, the latter nicknamed the “Colourful Revolution”.
The EU and the US have urged the president to withdraw his controversial decision. But two weeks ago, the EU canceled its plans to summon Macedonian party leaders to renewed talks in Vienna after Ivanov failed to withdraw his pardons, which the opposition set as a precondition for participating.
Amid the current absence of dialogue between political parties and the president’s silence regarding his controversial actions, speculations have grown that the EU and the US are preparing a list of personal sanctions against 12 Macedonian politicians who have worked to stall the internationally brokered effort to resolve the crisis. These speculations have been neither confirmed nor denied by anyone.
Former Macedonian Foreign Minister Denko Maleski hopes that the international pressure will bear fruit this time. He says several key steps are needed to bring the country back on track: “increased pressure for withdrawing of [the president’s] pardons, postponement of the elections without setting a new election date, re-activation of the parliament, and creating conditions for free work of the Special Prosecution [tasked to investigate high-level crime] and only then renewed political talks between the political leaders.”
The crisis in Macedonia revolves around opposition claims that the government formerly led by Nikola Gruevski was responsible for the illegal wiretapping of more than 20,000 people as well as other crimes.
Gruevski, who took power in 2006 and resigned as prime minister earlier this year under the terms of an EU accord reached last summer, claims that unnamed foreign intelligence services “fabricated” the wiretapping tapes and gave them to the opposition to destabilize the country.
After a pause of several days due to the holidays, anti-government protests in the Macedonian capital are set to resume this evening.