Protests Highlight Need for Change in EU Candidate Macedonia, MEP Says

Opinions | May 7, 2015, Thursday // 17:51|  views

Police officers try to push away protestors from the government building during an anti -government protest which escalated in the evening hours in Skopje, Macedonia on 5 May 2015. EPA/BGNES

Macedonia’s problems lie in the policies pursued by its own government rather than in the attitude of Greece, Bulgaria or the EU, the Bulgarian member of the European Parliament (MEP) Andrey Kovatchev has told Novinite.

“What is happening in Macedonia now is a result of the policy pursued by Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski over the past 10 years since he assumed office,” Kovatchev said. “The European Parliament has repeatedly warned that the country is moving away from its EU prospects instead of getting closer to membership.”

Gruevski’s conservative government has failed to provide a clear answer to the question to what extent the authorities in general and law enforcement bodies in particular are linked to the allegations of wiretapping that surfaced recently, Kovachev told by phone.

Thirty-eight policemen were injured and 30 protestors were detained in Skopje on Tuesday during an anti-government protest in front of the government headquarters building sparked by a claim of police brutality by opposition SDSM party leader Zoran Zaev. Speaking at a news conference, Zaev alleged authorities were trying to cover up what he described as the killing of 21-year-old Martin Neskovski by a policeman in 2011. Macedonia’s Interior Minister Gordana Jankuloska has dismissed Zaev’s claims and accused him of manipulating the facts for his own political gains.

Zaev has also accused Gruevski of illegally wiretapping phone conversations of 20,000 Macedonian citizens including journalists, religious leaders and political figures. According to Zaev, he has received the voice recordings from unnamed sources. Gruevski, in power since 2006, claims the recordings were made by unnamed foreign spies and accuses Zaev of conspiring to topple the cabinet. Zaev denies the charges

The wiretapping scandal has eroded the trust of the EU and NATO in the policies of Gruevski’s cabinet, according to Kovachev. Macedonia wants to join the EU and NATO but progress has been stalled by a dispute with neighbouring Greece over Macedonia's name, which according to Athens implies territorial claims to the northernmost Greek province of the same name.

“Gruevski’s government should bear the responsibility. It must be made clear that the protests are the result of the government’s unwillingness to implement the recommendations of the European Parliament [relating to Macedonia’s progress towards EU membership] and take into account the willingness of Macedonia’s citizens for transparency, democracy, separation of powers and efficient fight against corruption,” Kovatchev opined.

“Of course, this problem isn’t confined to Macedonia. Many other countries have it but it seems that in Macedonia the three functions of government had been usurped. On the other hand, the problem has geopolitical dimensions because Skopje appears to be lacking a clear European stance on events taking place in Ukraine,” Kovatchev said.

He declined to forecast whether the protests will topple Gruevski’s cabinet but opined the cabinet should resign to open the way for early elections.

“But the vote should be held in a different environment. The opposition should be granted access to media outlets as they are feared not to be quite free at the moment,” Kovatchev added.

He stressed the European Parliament in no way intends to meddle in Macedonia’s internal affairs but insists that the country should implement its recommendations in earnest to succeed its quest for membership of the European Union.

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Tags: macedonia, Bulgaria, greece, name, Gruevski, Zaev, protests, European parliament, Kovatchev, MEP, Skopje


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