Tag Archives: Macedonia

Political and Civil Turmoil in Macedonia

Posted on in Macedonia title_rule

Political infighting between Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia’s government and the largest opposition party in the country, the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM), remains the dominant topic in Macedonia’s political life this month. However, it would appear that an end to political turmoil in the country could be in sight. Following last month’s ongoing political and civil unrest, which resulted in violent protests, clashes between protesters and police, and the resignation of government officials, Western powers have intervened in the crisis in the hope to broker a deal between the warring factions to solve the country’s political and civil unrest.

Throughout 2015, the Social Democrat opposition party has alleged that the current government, led by Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, as well as other senior members of his government, have participated in undemocratic practices, large-scale illegal surveillance, and widespread corruption. Since the opposition party, led by Zoran Zaev, launched its aggressive campaign to expose the government’s corrupt behavior earlier this year, the party has continually exposed dossiers of incriminating information on senior members of Gruevski’s government, as well as a lengthy series of wiretapped conversations, which the opposition claim is proof that the government has been involved in a wide range of corrupt actions, including electoral fraud and abuse of the justice system.

The ongoing political turbulence has lead to nation-wide public outcry, civil unrest, and mass protests. The political and civil strife has resulted in substantial amount of arrests and violent clashes between police and protesters. Notably, a mass protest of an estimated 60,000 people took place on May 17 in Macedonia’s capital, Skopje, in front of the government building. The protest was held in opposition to the Prime Minister and his administration, calling for Gruevski’s resignation and an end to the government’s widespread corruption. The protesters also demanded the formation of a transitional government, which they believe would enable the country to prepare for free and fair elections. The mass protest was organized by opposition parties and supported by many non-government organizations, rights movements, as well as Macedonian students and Unions. Other protests also took place throughout last month, with protesters continually gathering outside of the government building in Skopje.

Most recently, Macedonia’s opposition published new wiretapped conversations claiming to show that top officials, including the Prime Minister Gruevski and Interior Minister, Gordna Jankuloska, had plotted to hide official responsibility of the murder of a young man by a policeman in 2011. Gruevski, Jankuloska, and the rest of the government deny all claims. However, as the political and civil unrest and unrelenting large-scale protests continued last month, Interior Minister Gordana Jankuloska, the Chief of the Secret Police, Saso Mijalkov, and Transportation Minister, Mile Janakieski subsequently resigned.


Prime Minister Gruevski’s and opposition leader Zaev’s ongoing political battle has also resulted in the Prime Minister’s allegations that the leader of the opposition party is attempting to blackmail him and execute a coup. As of June 1, Zaev is now awaiting a 15-day decision period, as a Court in Skopje decides whether to proceed with criminal charges against him, as he stands accused of trying to blackmail the Prime Minister into resigning.


What is more, as the political battle between Macedonia’s government and the opposition rages on into June and calls for the resignation of Prime Minister Gruevski, as well as his entire government continue to grow, crisis talks have been held in the country, led by EU Enlargement Commissioner, Johannes Hahn, as Western powers attempt to broker a deal between Gruevski and Zaev to put an end to the country’s political strife. The crisis talks appear to be successful, as the EU Enlargement Commissioner has extracted an agreement between the government and the opposition on a transition period leading up to early elections that must take place before April 2016. It is not yet known whether Gruevski will continue as Prime Minister until the snap elections take place, amidst mounting for his resignation. However, it appears hopeful that the political and resulting civil unrest will begin to stabilize relatively soon as the run up to fresh elections begins.





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Cooperation and Connectivity in the Western Balkans

Posted on in Balkans title_rule

The ministers from six Balkan states recently met in Kosovo’s capital, Pristina, for a regional ministerial conference. The meeting of the “Western Balkans 6” begun with a summit in Kosovo that brought together the Foreign and Infrastructure ministers of Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, and for the first time, Serbia. The regional decision makers met alongside senior representatives from the international community, including Johannes Han, Commissioner for European Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement, and the European Commissioner for Transport, Violeta Bulc, who addressed the conference by video call.

The joint meeting of the Balkan ministers and European Union officials was organized in the same format as all European Union meetings and was chaired by Kosovo’s Deputy PM, Hashim Thaçi. The meeting in Kosovo had been preceded by a series of conferences held in Belgrade, Berlin, and Budva, as well as by a number of informal ministerial meetings. The meetings that created a pathway to this most recent Conference were used to emphasize the need to define common infrastructural and energy projects. At these precursor meetings the Western Balkan countries committed to annually prepare and submit national programs of economic reform to the European Commission.

During the conference in Pristina, discussions for the establishment of a Central Region Transport Network took place. If implemented, this network would ensure a better connection between all the Western Balkans and the European Union, with developments in connections between major cities, economic centers, and the most important seaports. Not only this, but it would also guarantee progression towards a more transparent decision-making process and coordinated approach to economics and infrastructure for the six participating countries. In so far as to say, the meeting emphasized the importance of regional infrastructural connectivity for the implementation of major regional projects in transport and energy.

The plans for such developments are to be presented to the European Commission and European Union countries at a Western Balkans conference, scheduled for late summer in Vienna. If successful, the plans made at this most recent Balkan ministerial meeting will be followed up in Vienna to enable significant connectivity improvements in the region, which will boost overall competitiveness, raise job growth, enable further job creation, and make a real improvement to the lives of Balkan inhabitants.

Whilst the joint meeting itself represented a significant step towards creating a Western Balkans transport network, the meeting also reflected the combination of modest steps and giant leaps the Balkans have taken in cooperation and tolerance since the Balkan conflicts of the 1990’s. Notably, the developments have taken place in the midst of the continued ethnic division and political instability that has become the reoccurring theme since the breakup of Yugoslavia. The modest steps manifest in the sheer participation in the joint meeting, held in Kosovo, as this is the first time Serbia has attended, which serves to illustrate the inclusive nature of the meeting’s cooperation.

On the other hand, the giant leaps in development in cooperation and tolerance between Western Balkan states are characterized by their will to reignite past connections, albeit in a very different way to their former Yugoslav ties, to intensify economic cooperation between them. The intensification of economic cooperation will require EU-compatible reforms in order to ensure the best regulatory environment to implement and operate the planned projects. Moreover, it also means the Balkan states must establish core investment priorities, credible planning, and funding mechanisms, as well as ensuring that their individual countries have the fiscal space to take up the necessary loan-financing to get all the projects implemented on time. From this meeting, it is clear that the path of development for the Balkans is inherently tied to their cooperation, connectivity, and importantly, their economic governance.

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