Tusk tells Macedonia,paralysed by political crisis,to focus on EU entry

Meeting of President Tusk and President Ivanov,office of the President in Skopje on 3 April 2017.[European Council]

European Council President Donald Tusk said in Macedonia yesterday(3 April)he hoped the country’s leaders would avoid fuelling ethnic tensions and focus on advancing towards EU membership instead.

The Balkan state,with a Slav majority and a large ethnic Albanian minority,has been without a government since December,when inconclusive elections led to feuding over the influence of ethnic Albanians in a proposed coalition administration.

Rise above political bickering,Hahn urges Macedonia leaders

Macedonia needs to rise above political feuding and form a government as soon as possible to unblock the Balkan country’s path to European Union membership,the EU said yesterday(21 March).

Tusk met President Gjorge Ivanov on Monday to discuss ways out of the political crisis that has mired the country since a 2015 surveillance scandal that forced nationalist Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski to resign.

“I came here with the strong message from the EU leaders that commitment to European perspectives is unequivocal,” Tusk told reporters after meeting Ivanov.

“I therefore hope that you will continue to follow this compass and avoid anything that could further fuel tensions also along ethnic lines.”

In a snap election in December, the nationalist VMRO-DPMNE won 51 seats to the Social Democrats’ 49, leaving neither able to form a government without parties representing ethnic Albanians, who make up a third of the population.

Last month Social Democrat leader Zoran Zaev won the support of three ethnic Albanian parties after promising them a law on wider use of Albanian language, a deal which triggered daily protests in Skopje. But Ivanov refused to give Zaev a mandate to form a government.

Macedonia's Social Democrats to form government with Albanian party support

The leader of Macedonia’s Social Democrats said yesterday (23 February) he expected to be able to form a new government in March, having found an agreement with the biggest Albanian party over a law backing broader use of their language in the country.

“The new government cannot be contested by anyone,” Ivanov said after meeting Tusk. “A blackmailed government is an unstable government that will only last a short time and have damaging consequences.”

Macedonian president warns EU, NATO of Albanian meddling

In a letter sent to Council President Donald Tusk ahead of the 9-10 March EU summit, Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov warns against attempts by Western powers to impose on his country a political platform “written in Tirana”.

The crisis is the worst since Western diplomacy helped drag the country of 2.1 million people back from the brink of civil war during an ethnic Albanian insurgency in 2001, promising it a path to membership of the European Union and NATO.

At an EU summit earlier last month EU leaders reiterated their commitment to the Balkans. Russia is trying to increase its influence in the region.

Macedonia’s accession into the EU and NATO has been blocked over a name dispute with Greece, which has a northern province also called Macedonia and regards Skopje’s use of the name as illegitimate.

Tusk and Ivanov also discussed Europe’s migrant crisis. Macedonia was on the forefront of the crisis in 2015 when hundreds of thousands of people from Middle East, Asia and Africa crossed the Western Balkans on their way towards Western Europe.