Macedonia: Defusing the Bombs

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Crisis Group

Anti-government demonstration outside prime minister's office by supporters of main opposition SDSM party, demanding resignation of Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, Skopje, 17 May 2015. AFP/Konstantinos Tsakalidis


Skopje/Brussels: Macedonia is reeling from two shocks. Amid a scandal over leaked wiretaps revealing a state apparatus captured and corrupted by the leading party, a battle in ethnically mixed Kumanovo between police and ethnic-Albanian gunmen, many from Kosovo, caused the region’s worst loss of life in a decade. Unless addressed urgently, the double crisis (government legitimacy/regional security) carries risk that could extend to violent confrontation, perhaps in worst case to elements of the conflict narrowly averted in 2001. Discredited national institutions cannot cope alone. The opposition has broken off talks on a European Union (EU) mediated deal between parties for reforms and early elections that deadlocked, substantially over whether the prime minister, in power since 2006, must resign and the time a transitional government would need to level the field. The EU must press for a comprehensive agreement addressing the state capture and alleged corruption, including independent investigation and monitoring with international help. Macedonia and Kosovo, also with aid, should jointly investigate Kumanovo.

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The country is in the throes of a political crisis triggered by incendiary wiretap revelations that appear to show dramatic levels of government corruption and criminality. An outburst of violence in ethnically mixed Kumanovo further unnerved the region, fuelling concern about the potential for conflict.
Naim Rashiti, Europe and Central Asia Program Consultant and Project Director at the Balkans Policy Research Group, @naimrashiti

Naim Rashiti
Marko Prelec

To put Macedonia back on track and avert risk of violence, an inclusive interim government needs to be put in place to investigate the wiretap revelations and the Kumanovo incident, implement the structural reforms necessary to hold credible elections in 2016, and improve relations between ethnic Macedonians and Albanians by deep and thorough implementation of the Ohrid Framework Agreement that ended the 2001 civil war.
Marko Prelec, Europe and Central Asia Program Consultant and Executive Director at the Balkans Policy Research Group, @mprelec

Jennifer Leonard

Unless there is a political agreement, leaders will continue to raise the stakes and popular unrest will grow. More wiretap revelations, questions about Kumanovo, and growing ethnic divisions each present potential flashpoints for festering grievances, especially for the one-quarter ethnic Albanian community.
Jennifer Leonard, Washington Office Deputy Director

Jean-Marie Guéhenno

The inter-party agreement being mediated by the EU, which has a particular stake in and responsibility toward its candidate country, is a critical first step to defuse the political crisis, but much work remains. Brussels should continue to work closely with Macedonia, letting the country’s progress on reforms, and the conduct of credible, internationally supported investigations help inform a decision on accession.
Jean-Marie Guéhenno, President & CEO, @JGuehenno






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