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05/12/2016

EU cancels Vienna talks as Macedonia protests continue

Enlargement

EU cancels Vienna talks as Macedonia protests continue

A demonstrator draws a heart on a police shield during a protest against the government. Skopje, 21 April. [Reuters]

The European Union yesterday (21 April) cancelled mediation talks on resolving the political crisis in Macedonia, as tens of thousands of pro- and anti-government demonstrators again took to the streets of Skopje.

The EU had invited Macedonian political leaders to talks Friday (22 April) on ending the crisis that has gripped the small Balkan country for the last two years.

Hahn invites Macedonia leaders to Vienna talks

The European Union has invited Macedonian leaders to talks Friday (22 April) on ending the political crisis that has gripped the small Balkan country for the last two years.

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“We regret that the leaders’ meeting planned in Vienna on 22 April could not take place,” Commission spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic told AFP.

“We have consistently said that the breakdown of the Przino Agreement would have serious consequences for the country,” she added, referring to an accord among political leaders reached under EU auspices last year.

The country’s crisis ratcheted up a notch on 12 April when President Gjorge Ivanov unexpectedly halted a probe into more than 50 public figures suspected of involvement in a wire-tapping scandal, granting a mass pardon to those implicated.

Protesters ransack Macedonia president's office as crisis deepens

Protesters ransacked the offices of Macedonia’s presidency late yesterday (13 April) and set fire to the furniture, as thousands took to the capital’s streets in a deepening political crisis.

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Macedonia’s opposition said Wednesday (20 April) it would only join the EU talks if the government revoked the amnesty and postponed snap elections called by Ivanov for 5 June.

Macedonian opposition sets conditions for joining Vienna talks

Macedonia’s opposition said yesterday (20 April) it would only join EU talks on resolving the country’s political crisis if the government revoked an amnesty for politicians embroiled in a wire-tapping scandal and postpone the 5 June elections.

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The dropped probe has triggered nightly street protests against Ivanov, while his supporters have held counter-demonstrations.

Tens of thousands in the rival camps again massed in the Macedonian capital on Thursday, kept apart by riot police backed by water cannons, an AFP reporter saw. There were no immediate reports of any clashes however.

The opposition has said it will boycott the June ballot on grounds that conditions for free and fair polls have not been met – a contention shared by the EU.

EU doubts if credible elections in Macedonia are still possible

Macedonia’s president on Tuesday (12 April) blocked all judicial proceedings against top politicians embroiled in a wire-tapping scandal that sparked a major political crisis, a move the European Union said raised “serious concerns”.

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Macedonia is a candidate for EU membership since 2005, but is yet to open accession talks.

It has had close dealings with Brussels over the migration crisis, as it closed its borders to thousands of people trying to come via Greece.

“We would deeply regret any retrograde steps in Skopje that would move the country further away from its aspirations towards European Union accession,” Kocijancic said.