Macedonian opposition party leader Zoran Zaev has warned his country’s government during ongoing EU-mediated talks with Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski that protests will become radicalised unless Gruevski steps down at least six months before new elections are held.
Zaev in his weekly press conference in Skopje on Tuesday said that "Institutions must be re-built to a level of normality. Democratic capacities and corrective mechanisms must be restored."
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, referring to information gained from the wiretaps.
Gruevski and government officials have denied the allegations, saying the recordings were completely fabricated and manipulated, and claimed they are an attack on Macedonia’s national security.
Nevertheless, Zaev continues to leak wiretaps to the public.
Zaev also told Macedonian television on Monday that he is expecting another meeting with the EU by end of this week in which he will deliver a “final offer” to Gruevski.
Following the last EU-led talks held on June 10 in Brussels, Zaev asked Gruevski to step down in September, but Gruevski refused the proposal. Zaev told the media after the meeting with Bulgarian Foreign Minister Daniel Mitov.
Zaev also stressed that if the government fails to reach an agreement with him in EU-mediated talks, opposition protests is going to become “radicalised” and civil disobedience will impede streets and institutions, Balkan Insight reported.
Мeanwhile, мedia reports are speculating that if the crisis is not solved by the end of this month with the EU format, the diplomatic intervention of the US is expected.
With regards to such a possibility, the media mentioned a possible visit by the US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Victoria Nuland.
Brussels is working in coordination with Washington, by sending its ambassador Jess Baily to Skopje to normalise the political situation in Macedonia in order to protect the status of the negotiations with the EU.
Following a major anti-government rally on May 17, the opposition set up a protest camp in front of the government’s headquarters in Skopje.
The ruling party likewise set up its own counter-camp “for the preservation of democracy” opposite the parliament.
Political analyst and member of the SDSM opposition party, Prof. Stevo Pendarovski, who was a candidate in the last presidential elecrions running against current President George Ivanov, has accused the ruling party of attempting to distract Macedonians away from wiretaps by exposing tensions near the Macedonia–Kosovo border.
Forty masked, uniformed and armed militants claiming to be members of the Kosovo-based UCK (National Liberation Army) attacked a police station in Goshince near the border with Kosovo on April 21, causing damage and injuring police officers before they fled, Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs Ivo Kotevski said.
Macedonian security forces later clashed with the suspected UCK militants in the border town of Kumanovo on May 9 in an operation that resulted in the deaths of 22 people, including eight Macedonian police officers. Some of the dead were Kosovo nationals.
Kosovo commission in circuit
Kosovo's parliament is to compile a report on all previous knowledge possessed by relevant security institutions relating to the “suspicious movements” of Kosovo citizens in Macedonia and the incidents in Kumanovo.
Haxhi Shala, the head of the parliamentary commission concerning Kosovo’s Intelligence Agency, said the investigation was needed “for Kosovo citizens to able to trust the security institutions.”
MPs are expected to vote on the formation of a commission which will examine the information accessible to Kosovo’s security institutions, including the police and the Interior Ministry, prior to the Macedonian police raid on the town of Kumanovo.
Conflicting reports appeared in the media after the fighting in Kumanovo, with claims that Kosovo’s Prime Minister Isa Mustafa and Interior Minister Skender Hyseni had previous knowledge of suspicious movements of Kosovars in Macedonia.
Both men Isa Mustafa and Skender Hyseni have denied having any previous knowledge of such events, Kosovo’s Koha Ditore newspaper reported.
“Parliament and the commission need to be able to come out with the facts about the incident, or at least with facts about the knowledge they had prior to the events,” security analyst Shpend Kursani told Balkan Insight, insisting that they owed it to the public to “clear up the inconsistencies” relating to the Kosovars’ clash with Macedonian security forces in Kumanovo.