Russia accuses NATO, EU and Albania of meddling in Macedonia

Federica Mogherini in a meeting with President Gjorge Ivanov in Skopje yesterday. [European Commission]

Russia accused Albania, NATO and the European Union yesterday (2 March) of trying to impose a pro-Albanian government on Macedonia, which is gripped by political crisis.

A day earlier Macedonia’s President Gjorge Ivanov refused to allow a coalition of Social Democrats and parties representing the country’s big ethnic Albanian minority to form a government because of their pledge to allow wider official use of the Albanian language.

Macedonian president accused of fomenting ‘coup’

Macedonia’s political crisis deepened yesterday (1 March) as opposition leader Zoran Zaev accused President Gjorge Ivanov of fomenting a “coup d’état” by refusing to give him the mandate for forming a government.

Ivanov’s move, made during protests of Macedonians against the coalition in the capital Skopje and towns where ethnic Macedonians are a majority, was criticised by the European Union.

After meeting Ivanov and other political leaders in Skopje, the European Union’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini urged him to reconsider.

“I asked the president to reflect on the way forward to reverse his decision in the interest of all citizens,” Mogherini told a news conference.

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Hours earlier Russia criticised the coalition deal.

“With active cooperation of the EU and NATO officials, an ‘Albanian platform’ created in Tirana, in the office of the (Albanian) prime minister, is being imposed on Macedonians,” a statement by the Russian foreign ministry said yesterday.

It alleged that such a move was testimony to Albania’s claims over “wide regions” of Montenegro, Serbia, Macedonia and Greece as part of a project to create a so-called Greater Albania.

Russia refuses to recognise the 2008 independence of predominantly ethnic-Albanian Kosovo from Moscow’s ally Serbia, and strongly opposes neighboring Montenegro’s NATO membership.

Montenegro says it foiled Russian-backed plan to kill PM Djukanovic

A special prosecutor investigating an alleged plot to sway last month’s election in Montenegro said on 6 November a group of “Russian nationalists” had planned to assassinate Prime Minister Milo Djukanović in order to get an opposition party into power.

Tensions between Macedonia’s Slav majority and ethnic Albanian minority reached the brink of civil war in 2001, before diplomatic intervention by the EU and other powers defused the situation.

In a December snap election, the nationalist VMRO-DPMNE narrowly beat the Social Democrats, but neither was able to form a government without parties of ethnic Albanians, who make up a third of the population.

Crisis drags on as Macedonia fails to form government

Macedonia’s president on Monday (30 January) resumed the search for a new prime minister after the former premier failed to form a government, despite his party’s narrow election victory.

After months of talks, Social Democrat leader Zoran Zaev last week won the support of three ethnic Albanian parties and conceded some of their demands.

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.

One was for a bill allowing wider use of the Albanian language, a request backed by ethnic Albanian parties from different Balkan countries when they met in the Albanian capital Tirana after the December election.

Macedonian nationalists including former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski say the Albanian demand would lead to cantonisation of the country along ethnic lines.

Moscow’s statement on Thursday also accused Kosovo of meddling in Macedonian affairs and said the West wanted to bring “the defeated opposition” to power.

“It is necessary to stop external intervention in Macedonia’s internal affairs,” it said.