The EU played host Thursday (4 May) to Macedonia’s new parliamentary speaker, ethnic Albanian Talat Xhaferi, in a gesture of support for the opposition as the unstable Balkan nation struggles to form a government.
The European Union’s diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini called on all sides to “engage constructively in the political process” and said the EU was ready to work with Xhaferi and other parties to find away out of Macedonia’s political deadlock.
Xhaferi’s visit to Brussels comes a week after his election as speaker sparked an eruption of violence in Macedonia’s parliament, with about 100 people injured as angry nationalist demonstrators stormed the assembly in protest at his appointment.
“The EU expects all political parties to engage constructively in the political process, including on government formation, and in the work of the new parliament,” Mogherini said in a statement.
The riots in parliament, which came after two years of political crisis, drew international condemnation.
An election last December was supposed to end Macedonia’s turmoil, but its inconclusive result only deepened the uncertainty and has led to nightly protests by nationalists who support the conservative VMRO-DPMNE party.
They oppose a proposed coalition between the opposition Social Democrats and ethnic Albanian parties, which they perceive as a threat to national unity.
Mogherini repeated her condemnation of the violence in parliament and, like the United States, welcomed Xhaferi’s election by a majority of lawmakers, “stressing that this is a role that needs to be above party and inter-ethnic politics”.
Conservative President Gjorge Ivanov has for weeks refused Social Democrat leader Zoran Zaev — among the MPs injured in the parliamentary clashes — a mandate to form a government that would put an end to more than a decade in power for the VMRO-DPMNE.
VMRO-DPMNE supporters, who turned out in their thousands to a protest in Skopje on Tuesday, notably reject a demand that Albanian be made a nationwide official language, saying this would undermine national sovereignty.