- Category: Politics
- Published on Sunday, 08 November 2015 15:08
After marathon EU-brokered talks, Macedonia's crisis agreement was salvaged as political leaders ironed out differences over reforms to be implemented ahead of early elections in April.
Embattled Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and opposition Social Democrats leader Zoran Zaev held marathon talks that went on into the early hours of Friday (06.11.2015), finally reaching agreement about the stalled issue of the appointment of interim ministers from the ranks of the opposition who will hold their posts until the April elections.
The agreement saved the crisis deal, made in the summer to resolve the country’s long-running political crisis which was sparked by a mass surveillance scandal, but appeared to be on the brink of collapse.
The new Interior Minister until the elections will be Oliver Spasov, the secretary general of the opposition Social Democrats. Frosina Remenski, the Social Democrats’ vice-president will be appointed new Labour Minister, and several deputies from the opposition’s ranks are also be appointed to the interim cabinet.
The Interior Minister will have the full right to appoint and dismiss staff, as the opposition insisted, but his deputy, who will come from the ruling party, will be able to veto his decisions on electoral issues.
"This is a new beginning for Macedonia and its people... We are doing this to gain guarantees for the citizens that the elections in April 24 will be free. During this [pre-election] period we will develop Macedonia by democratising its institutions, because improved democracy means that we will all be winners," opposition leader Zaev told media after the talks.
Gruevski was also upbeat about the impending polls, saying his party had instigated them so the people could decide on who was to blame for the political crisis.
"They [voters] will again show to the entire European and world public that it is not possible to win through dirty games," he said.
At the talks, the party leaders agreed on a set of electoral reforms designed to ensure Gruevski’s ruling VMRO DPMNE party does not rig the April elections.
They also agreed on two laws, one for the protection of whistleblowers, and another, for 'protection of privacy', which comes at insistence of the ruling parties who do not want the opposition to publish more compromising wiretapped conversations between officials. Further details will be hashed out by representatives of the two parties.
The breakthrough reached in the nick of time comes after several weeks of stalled talks and breached deadlines for which the EU countries and the United States have pointed the finger at Prime Minister Gruevski.
The political stalemate threatens to tarnish the European Commission's annual progress report on Macedonia which will be published next week and threaten a recommendation for the start of EU accession talks.
Prior to the breakthrough, another obstacle was removed on Thursday with the formal appointment of 12 deputy special prosecutors who should help chef special prosecutor Katica Janeva probe cases linked to the illegal wiretapping scandal that is at the centre of the political crisis.
The crisis revolves around the Social Democrats’ claims that covertly recorded tapes of official conversations, which the opposition party has been releasing since February, show that Gruevski was behind the illegal surveillance of some 20,000 people. They insist that the tapes contain incriminating evidence on many senior officials.
Gruevski, who has held power since 2006, insists the tapes were “fabricated” by unnamed foreign intelligence services and given to the opposition to destabilise the country.
The EU-brokered deal this summer, signed in the presence of EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn, which envisages a set of urgent reforms before early elections in April, was aimed at unblocking the impasse.
As part of the crisis agreement, Gruevski is expected to resign in January, at 100 days before the April elections take place.
Sinisa Jakov Marusic