Europe

EU integration main priority for Macedonia

EU integration is main priority, Foreign Minister Nikola Poposki says

02.07.2016
EU integration main priority for Macedonia Macedonian foreign minister Nikola Poposki

By Talha Ozturk

BELGRADE, Serbia

Macedonia is prioritizing EU integration to attract foreign investment, bring stability to the country and boost living standards, the country’s top diplomat has said.

Macedonian Foreign Minister Nikola Poposki told Anadolu Agency, "In order to increase living standards in Macedonia, and to bring stability and foreign investments to our country, our main priority is European Union integration."

He added that the hurdles his country has faced during its EU and NATO membership bids increased the problems’ urgency.

Meanwhile, for the last two months thousands have been protesting the government in 20 cities across the country.

Since February 2015, opposition head Zoran Zaev has released scores of recordings, purporting to demonstrate that then-embattled prime minister, Nikola Gruevski, and then-intelligence chief, Saso Mijalkov, ordered the illegal surveillance of up to 20,000 people, including government ministers and journalists.

The ensuing political crisis was thought to have been brought to an end in July 2015, when an EU-mediated agreement was reached between the leaders of the four parliamentary political parties.

Under the agreement, Gruevski was to resign at the end of 2015, and the country would head to early parliamentary elections this April. Gruevski resigned on Jan. 14.

The elections were rescheduled to June 5 as certain criteria were not met, but Macedonian MPs voted to delay them again by a large majority in May.

However, the crisis deepened on April 12 after President Gjorge Ivanov granted pardons to 56 officials, including high-ranking politicians who were linked to the wiretapping scandal.

Since then thousands of people have been protesting almost nightly across the country, against alleged government corruption and mismanagement, and demanding Ivanov's resignation.

Ivanov's move was also heavily criticized by the EU and the United States.

"In light of these developments, I have serious doubts if credible elections are still possible," said EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn on April 13.

Why pardons?

Ivanov justified his decision to grant pardons as a move to ensure elections would be held in "an atmosphere without pressure and blackmail.”

He also called for national reconciliation after the wiretapping scandal "has resulted in endless [acts] of hatred and recrimination."

Following condemnation by the international community and pressure from the EU, Gjorge withdrew the pardons on June 6.

Speaking about the country’s crisis, Poposki said that foreign ambassadors should not decide on Macedonia’s elections.

"Political parties can determine whether to hold the elections or not or when to hold them," said Poposki.

U.S and EU envoys have urged Macedonia to agree on a new election date as a key to solve the longstanding crisis triggered by the wiretapping scandals.

Macedonia declared its independence from Yugoslavia in 1991, and since 2005 has been an EU candidate country.

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