By Sinisa Jakov Marusic
Germany has appointed an experienced diplomat, its current ambassador to Vienna, Johannes Haindl, as its new special envoy for the Macedonian political crisis.
Haindl, who was appointed by Germany’s Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, is being deployed in a bid to help settle the political crisis in Macedonia, alongside the European Union and the United States, the foreign ministry said on Wednesday.
“The political situation in Macedonia is a cause for concern in the German federal government,” said foreign ministry spokesperson Martin Schafer.
“Ambassador Haindl as of now will work together with the European Commission, the United States and with other partners to support their mediation aimed at resolving the political crisis,” Schafer added.
Haindl is a diplomat who has experience working in the Balkans.
During his 30-year-long diplomatic career, he has worked at the German embassy in the former Yugoslavia, and 14 years ago, he led the German foreign ministry’s department for south-east Europe and Turkey.
The 60-year-old former journalist is expected to arrive in Macedonia in the coming days.
Macedonia’s former ambassador to US and Holland, Nikola Dimitrov, told Deutsche Welle that the appointment of the special envoy “shows that Germany cares about democracy and the rule of law in Macedonia and shows it will approach the solving of the crisis with all its capacity and attention”.
The crisis in Macedonia took a turn for the worse 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 the ruling VMRO DPMNE party of former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski.
The president’s decree and the VMRO DPMNE’s insistence early elections on June 5 without completing reforms that would ensure they are truly free and fair has sparked massive ongoing anti-government protests in Skopje and in other towns.
Protesters in the capital threw paint balls at the State Electoral Commission on Wednesday evening, calling for the reforms to be implemented before the country holds the elections.
They accuse Gruevski’s VMRO DPMNE of controlling the work of the commission and of other key institutions in the country.
The three key reform priorities suggested by the EU and US are the cleaning-up of the electoral roll, media reforms to ensure non-biased reporting during the election campaign and the establishment of mechanisms to prevent political pressure on voters and to separate party political activities from the state.
The crisis in Macedonia revolves around opposition claims that the government formerly led by Gruevski was responsible for the illegal wiretapping of over 20,000 people, amongst other crimes.
Gruevski, who took power in 2006 and resigned as prime minister earlier this year under the terms of an EU-brokered accord that was reached last summer, claims that unnamed foreign intelligence services “fabricated” the wiretapping tapes and gave them to the opposition to destabilise the country.