EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn has said that Macedonia should be prepared to hold early elections next year in April.
After eight hours of discussions between concerned parties to a bid to end Macedonia's political deadlock, EU Enlargement Commissioner Hahn said the negotiations were intensive and constructive, and called on party leaders to support his efforts to find a solution.
Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, opposition leader Zoran Zaev, two ethnic Albanian party leaders and US Ambassador to Macedonia Jess Bailey met with Hahn on Tuesday in the residence of the EU delegation in Skopje to find a solution to the Macedonian crisis.
“We have agreed to see a kind of a transitional period and it was agreed that by the end of April next year, there should be early elections,” Hahn explained. “It’s important to prepare the country."
Hahn stressed his high hopes that the negotiations will be an opportunity for the future of Macedonia.
The Macedonian crisis started in January after the illegal release of phone records of high ranking government officials by opposition leader Zaev. He accused Prime Minister Gruevski of corruption and electoral fraud, according to the information gained from the wiretaps.
Gruevski and government officials denied allegations, saying the recordings were completely fabricated and manipulated, and claimed that it was an attack on national security.
Nevertheless, Zaev continues to leak wiretaps to the public.
Macedonian security forces clashed with ethnic Albanians believed to belong to the Kosovo Liberation Army in Kumanovo on May 9, resulting in the death of 22 people, including eight Macedonian police officers.
Protesters later hit the streets accusing Prime Minister Gruevski of attempting to distract focus away from the wiretaps.
After this operation, Zaev released another wiretap accusing Gruevski covering up the death of a journalist in 2013, which led to more protests calling on Gruevski to resign.
On May 19, Gruevski and Zaev met in Strasbourg, France, for a 10-hour meeting about the crisis.
In the meeting, Hahn stressed the need to modernise the country and the need for both sides to follow the Euro-Atlantic perspective for the country during the transitional period as well as the necessity to reach a political compromise with respect and balance between different parties, groups, and minorities in addition to revised voting lists and electoral quotas.
Hahn added it was “further important to accept all the recommendations being given by the European Commision” related to the independence of judiciary.
Hahn also gave information about topics that have not been negotiated yet for next week's meeting in Brussels to reach a “final deal” on the rule of law, independence of the judiciary, and freedom of media.
“If everything goes well, I’m strongly convinced that afterwards, the country, the political culture will be strengthened and will follow European standards,” Hahn said.