SKOPJE, 6 June 2015 — The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s Special Representative on South East Europe, Roberto Battelli (MP, Slovenia), visited the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia on 4-5 June, stressing the urgent need for crisis-resolution, the return of a functioning parliament and broad national dialogue in meetings with governmental and parliamentary leaders.
The Special Representative also discussed the recent tragic events in Kumanovo during his meetings and the framework deal facilitated by EU Commissioner Johannes Hahn that political leaders agreed on 2 June.
In a joint meeting with Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and Foreign Minister Nikola Poposki on 5 June, Battelli received detailed information from the government’s perspective on the Kumanovo incident and on developments toward political resolution. The Special Representative encouraged the government to take all steps to regain credibility, including by initiating dialogue formats with the political opposition and NGOs that aim to expedite necessary reforms.
The Special Representative noted the Prime Minister’s assurance that the majority of the opposition’s requests will be met, with the exception of their call for a “technical” government.
The sides also discussed the work of the committee that will investigate the contents of audio recordings released by the leader of the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM), Zoran Zaev. Battelli raised the question of the possible impact of the committee’s work on the government’s operability.
The Special Representative noted the Prime Minister’s reaffirmation that the Kumanovo incident had been perpetrated by well-known criminals whose aim was to destabilize the country and that they did not receive support from neighboring countries or the Albanian community within in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
In a separate meeting with Foreign Minister Poposki, the sides also discussed the status of the country’s Euro-Atlantic integration and the issue of ethnic integration within society. Battelli called upon the government to speedily start implementing the much-needed strategy for integration in the educational system.
“At the same time, the EU and its members should not create artificial obstacles to the enlargement process, and this is a point that the OSCE PA has endorsed,” the Special Representative noted.
Battelli also met with SDSM leader Zoran Zaev while in Skopje. He received further details of the EU-facilitated agreement, in particular regarding the early elections planned for April 2016 and the envisaged changes in the composition of the government.
Battelli encouraged the opposition to promote a negotiated solution to the political crisis by considering that unrealistic expectations could endanger the success of the reform process.
In meetings with Speaker of Parliament Trajko Veljanovski and with the country’s Delegation to the OSCE PA, the Special Representative further emphasized the need to fully implement the EU-facilitated agreement in order to allow for urgent discussions about the country’s future and to enable the parliament to fulfill its critical role of driving reform.
Battelli also welcomed opposition’s stated readiness to end their year-long boycott of the parliament, underscoring that it the duty of the majority to enable the opposition to play its critical role in the democratic process.
“It is now high time to move to the implementation of the reform promises and legislation. This is the responsibility of the country and its leadership, and not something that can be done by the international community,” Battelli said.
“I am sure the EU will have a close look at this process,” he added, also offering the support of the OSCE PA and its members, if needed and requested.
The Special Representative also met with Ali Ahmeti, the leader of the Albanian party DUI, which is currently in the governing coalition. He expressed his support for Ahmeti’s request for a thorough and unbiased investigation into the Kumanovo incident and expressed further appreciation for Ahmeti’s calls for an inclusive roundtable involving all political actors in the country and for his role in past reconciliation processes.
Battelli also met with a broad range of civil society organizations while in Skopje.
“In speaking with opposition politicians, and in my meetings with NGO representatives in particular, I was disturbed to hear them describe an increasing climate of suspicion and intimidation and the return of inter-ethnic tensions. I am convinced that it is essential for both the opposition and civil society organizations to be better integrated into problem-solving in this country in order to change this dangerous course,” he said.
Battelli agreed with the NGO representatives that problem-solving would have to include the establishment of internal party democracy and a more transparent process of further negotiations.
“I therefore understand the doubts of my civil society interlocutors regarding the timeline for elections that the parties agreed on, and their fear that there will be insufficient time to resolve the burning issues,” he added.
The Special Representative also held meetings with representatives of international organizations and received thorough briefings by the staff of the OSCE Mission to Skopje. He was accompanied in Skopje by the OSCE PA’s Special Representative in Vienna, Ambassador Andreas Nothelle, the Acting Head of the OSCE Mission, Ambassador Marianne Berecz, and the Mission’s Political Officer, James DeWitt.
Earlier in the week Battelli visited Belgrade and Prishtine/Pristina. Further information is available here.
Photos from the visit are available here.