EU considers sanctioning Macedonian politicians over crisis

European Union official says it could consider putting sanctions on Macedonian politicians who block agreement that aims to end political crisis

Photo by: AFP (Archive)
Photo by: AFP (Archive)

EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn (C), Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski (L) and main opposition leader Zoran Zaev (R) speak to the media.

A European Union official said on Thursday that the EU could consider putting sanctions on Macedonian politicians who obstruct a resolution of the country's long-running political crisis.

The sanctions will include travel bans and asset freezes.

"We are extremely concerned by the short-sightedness of the current government. The EU is willing to consider sanctions on politicians blocking a resolution of the crisis. Macedonia is heading towards international isolation," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The official also said that Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov must annul an amnesty he recently granted to 56 politicians over a wire-tapping scandal as a prerequisite for talks with the EU to continue.

The Macedonian crisis started in January 2015 after the illegal release of phone records of high ranking government officials by opposition leader Zoran Zaev.

He accused then-prime minister Nikola Gruevski of corruption and electoral fraud, according to the information gained from the wiretaps.

Gruevski and government officials denied the allegations, saying the recordings were completely fabricated, manipulated and claimed it was an attack on national security.

Vienna meeting failed

There was an attempt on Friday from the EU in trying to bring Macedonia’s main political parties together in Vienna on resolving the political crisis. But a European Commission spokesman announced on Thursday that the meeting failed.

"The conditions for the meeting were not met," the Commission spokesman said.

The invitation came from EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn and Members of the European Parliament Richard Howitt, Eduard Kukan and Ivo Vajgl, but the main opposition party declined to take part adding that they would only take part in the talks if president Ivanov annulled the pardons.

After the failure of their attempt to bring leading Macedonian political parties together for talks in Vienna, Hahn and three members of the Parliament wrote a statement saying that they have consistently said that the breakdown of agreement, called Przino Agreement, would have very serious consequences for the country.

The disputing sides agreed in mid-June to end the Macedonian political crisis in Przino, near capital Skopje.

“We are deeply regret retrograde steps that move the country further away from its aspirations toward EU accession. In the absence of any further progress, we are now forced to consider further actions to meet the requirements clearly laid out by the (European Union)," they added.

A spokesman of the main opposition party (Social Democrats - SDSM) said that they wanted the June 5 elections to be postponed until it was possible to hold a free and fair vote.

The pardons have led to days of street protests in Macedonia while the United States and other countries have urged Ivanov to reconsider his decision.

TRTWorld and agencies