Many things to talk about but at the moment it is the political climate that is most important. What I am posting is not my writing. It comes from our Safety and Security Manager. I know nothing more than what these Press Notes say.
February 22, 2016
EU-U.S. Assessment: All media carry straightforward reports about the statement of Ambassador Baily and the EU Charge D ’Affairs Lukas, highlighting the part that at this stage the necessary conditions for organizing credible elections on 24 April are currently not in place and that it is up to the Parliament to decide on a new possible date. Several media comment that, reportedly, the battle now is to convince VMRO-DPMNE leader Gruevski to accept June 5 as a new date for early parliamentary elections. In a brief statement, SDSM said Ambassadors’ assessment confirms what SDSM has been saying and what citizens already know. Soon after the assessment was announced, Commissioner Hahn tweeted that “substance and quality of elections are more important than date,” which has triggered many positive comments on FB
In expectation of the EU-U.S. assessment on the preparations of elections, media reported that its disclosure was postponed several times, and cited the U.S. Embassy that the letter was held off at the request of party leaders. PlusInfo speculates that it was DUI that requested the disclosure of the assessment to be postponed, and several media cite SDSM, VMRO-DPMNE and DUI representatives denying to have requested postponement.
In addition, media report that at the request of U.S. Ambassador Baily and the EC Delegation, an unexpected leaders’ meeting was summoned at the Parliamentary Club, which the leader of VMRO-DPMNE, Nikola Gruevski, did not attend. Several media reported that Gruevski boycotted the meeting, speculating that he notified the U.S. and EU representatives that the assessment on the preparations of elections is not relevant. Telma comments that international missions interpret Gruevski’s gesture as a refusal to accept the assessment. Deutsche Welle cites VMRO-DPMNE saying that “it was Gruevski’s call, which the party will additionally clarify.”
Following the leaders’ meeting, DUI leader Ali Ahmeti urged all political parties to work in finding a mutual solution and compromise. Ahmeti said the Przino Agreement must not fail and underlined that DUI will not confront the international community and the party is on the same lines with them.
Earlier yesterday, VMRO-DPMNE Ilija Dimovski urged the State Election Commission to hold an urgent meeting that would be broadcasted live on TV and reveal how much time is necessary to clear the voters’ registry. Dimovski added that there is no credible argument that SEC and other institutions are not prepared to organize elections. While pro-government media continuously report that there is no response by SEC to VMRO-DPMNE’s request for a public meeting, Dnevnik is in “search’ of foreigners’ mistakes. The paper reports that the international community is mistaken when insisting on clearing of voters registry because the registry cannot be subjected to public scrutiny and correction without a previously set election date.
Media expect the political parties to officially present their reactions to the assessment. Deutsche Welle notes that while the views of the politicians are completely polarized, experts welcome the assessment because it reflects the real situation as to whether conditions for elections are in place. Pro-government portals cite journalist Vasko Eftov’s FB status recalling that two months ago he said that when the opposition in one country is weak, the international community takes the role of the opposition.
What Next? There is lot of speculation and forecasts as to what will happen next and whether the country will be pushed into a deeper crisis following the negative assessment of the international community and the insistence of VMRO-DPMNE to go on elections on April 24.
Media note that unless the decision for the dissolution of Parliament is not changed by midnight tomorrow at the latest, elections will be held on April 24. Media note that after DUI said yesterday that the party is supporting the international community, the parliamentary majority is not compact any longer and VMRO-DPMNE will have to come up with a position. VMRO-DPMNE after its moves yesterday has lost the support of the international community, but it is uncertain what the party’s next steps will be, some media comment.
Some comments suggest that in this new situation what can follow is “mobilization and demonstration of resistance against the foreigners by the VMRO-DPMNE ‘army.” In his latest FB post, anchor and VMRO-DPMNE proponent Milenko Nedelkovski calls on the people to go on the streets. “That’s the solution,” he says.
In Vecer today, Dragan Pavlovic Latas blames the “foreign umbrella” for creating the crisis and building a “parallel system” in the country with support from SDSM and Soros people in Macedonia and most recently, with DUI, as opposed to VMRO-DPMNE, which “undoubtedly is the party that guarantees the Macedonian national identity and the country’s stability.” “That is why it is worth fighting against this threat. And winning,” he concludes.
Dnevnik commentary by analyst Mirka Velinovska criticizes President Ivanov for not reacting against “this terrorist savagery of American, British and European ‘diplomats’ in Macedonia.” “How credible elections results could be if they are ensured by an imposed party election commission which has been established by the aggressor; monitored by the unreliable OSCE; if a foreign Embassy gives orders; if observer is the unreliable and Sorosoid party organization MOST, while voters are recruited and distributed by IM [Interior Ministry]-SDSM,” she says.
VMRO-DPMNE Cancels Cooperation with Mediator Vanhautte: Media cite a press release by VMRO-DPMNE, announcing that the party cancels cooperation with the mediator for his “insults” against VMRO-DPMNE and other parties participating in the negotiations, as well as for his “constant humiliation” of the Macedonian people. As far as VMRO-DPMNE is concerned, Peter Vanhautte is a tourist in this country as of today and we recommend he visits the Museum of the Macedonian Revolutionary Fight,” the party says. Online media carry the latest tweet of Vanhautte that he plans to write a tourist guide on Skopje, asking where is the VMRO Museum, which has received a lot of sympathy on FB. In the meantime, after his tweet that he is surrendering and there will be no elections on April 24, the EC delegation has dissociated from Vanhautte’s tweets, underlining that the official communication with the EC Delegation in Macedonia goes through its Press Office.
And next today’s information.
February 23, 2016
State Department Statement: VOA cites a statement by SD officer asked to comment the latest developments in Macedonia. “We continue to support Macedonia’s Euro-Atlantic integration efforts. On Sunday, February 21, the U.S. and EU delivered a joint assessment to the Macedonian Government on the preparations for holding credible parliamentary elections. The assessment states that currently there are no conditions in place for holding credible elections on April 24. The major point of the assessment is that the State Elections Commission needs additional time to carry out its working assignments. Preparations should not be rushed. We encourage law makes to take into consideration the assessment from yesterday and consider the possibility for determining another election date. Although time is short there is still time for the leaders to react before the scheduled dissolution of Parliament on February 24 to make sure that conditions for credible elections will be in place,” the statement says, concluding that the U.S. and EU will continue to support election preparations especially the work of SEC, and the need for urgent reforms in the media and wider.
Reactions to Assessment by Political Parties: VMRO-DPMNE has issued a reaction underlining that “the EU and U.S. representatives did not present a single serious and credible argument in support of their thesis that the country is not ready for elections, which clearly shows that the assessment is based on a political decision, rather than facts.” For VMRO-DPMNE this could lead to deepening of the political crisis.
SDSM leader Zoran Zaev, on the other hand, reiterated at a press conference yesterday that there can be no elections on April 24 because basic conditions have not been met for holding fair and democratic elections, something that has been directly confirmed by the international community. He also said that should elections be held on April 24, SDSM will not stand still.
DPA and DUI have reiterated the position of the international community that there are no conditions in place for elections on April 24. Smaller ethnic Albanian parties, including NDP, Besa and Uniteti have also supported the international community assessment. In addition Dnevnik writes that DUI is having intensive communication with VMRO-DPMNE in order to overcome the crisis. “Off the record, DUI tries to convince the government partner to accept postponement of elections, a decision that should be reached through a consensus by all four parties,” Dnevnik says.
MEPs in Macedonia: Media report that three Members of European Parliament (MEPs) Richard Howitt, Ivo Vajgl, and Eduard Kukan have arrived to Skopje in a mission to “rescue” the Przino Agreement. Media note that Ambassador Orav announced the visit yesterday on Twitter, underlining that parties need to find solution and today is the last chance. Media speculate that there are two possible scenarios, one that VMRO-DPMNE will not give up April 24, and two, that a compromise on postponement can be reached under the condition that a fixed date must immediately be determined. So far none of the parties in Parliament has asked for an urgent session of Parliament to discuss postponement of election date. Democratic Union leader Pavle Trajanov has appealed to all parties in Parliament to terminate the decision for Parliament dissolution.
Beaten to Death Over Politics: Media report that an 80-year old man from the area of Bitola was beaten to death by a drunken fellow villager because of opposite political beliefs. The killed R.S. reportedly praised the work of Special Prosecutor Katica Janeva, which infuriated R.D. who beat the old man to death. The offender was detained whereas the prosecution started an investigation on the incident.
Refugee Crisis: Koha reports that over 600 refugees from Afghanistan remain stranded in the transit center for immigrants in Tabanovce at the border with Serbia, after the northern neighbor closed its border for this category of refugees. Dnevnik also reports about accumulating refugees in Tabanovce and that in addition to Afghans, refugees from Syria and Iraq are also being returned to Macedonia. Dnevnik’s editorial headlined “Macedonia Cannot Be A Camp for Returned Refugees,” reads that Macedonia made the wrong assessment in choosing to believe the promises of Balkan countries which are now returning refugees to Macedonia. MIA stringer in Brussels reported that the European Commission denied that the border crossing between Macedonia and Greece was completely blocked after Austria closed its borders for refugees from Arab countries and Africa. Citing sources from the Foreign Ministry, Vest reports that the authorities in Macedonia will not make unilateral decisions for closing the border, but will rather concentrate on preventing illegal crossing. However, if after March 1 the number of refugees continues to be 6,000 a day, mainly economic migrants, then it is a matter of time when unilateral measures will be undertaken, the source has said.
Referring to a briefing by the Foreign Ministry, Nova Makedonija reports that Macedonia does not plan to build refugee camps for now and that the EU has not even requested such a thing. Utrinski Vesnik reports that several thousand refugees are waiting to enter Macedonia at the southern border, near the Greek city of Polykastro. Nova reports this morning that Greek police started an action to transfer migrants from the border to shelters in Thessaloniki and Athens.
This is a lot to read and process. We have seen no signs of violence and have not had any “Stand Fast” warnings. With that being said, the people of the Balkans are passionate. Anything could happen. However, if my family is any indication, the only people that will be fighting will be the politicians while the rest of the region goes on with its every day life. Peace.