A cross-party agreement in Skopje is an important step for the country’s perspectives, say S&Ds

A cross-party agreement between the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia political parties to end the country’s political crisis jointly mediated by the European Commission and European Parliament has been described by S&D Group’s mediator MEP Richard Howitt as ‘pulling the country back from the brink.’

The Socialists and Democrats Group’s foreign affairs coordinator who mediated in the four person team and who had previously helped negotiate the earlier ‘1st March agreement’ to overcome a previous breakdown in the country’s parliament, said he hoped today’s new agreement could begin the process of building permanent progress for democratic development in the country and guarantee its Euro-Atlantic perspective.

Following over twelve hours of talks in the country’s capital Skopje, MEP Richard Howitt joined European Commissioner Johannes Hahn and the leaders of the country’s four main political parties to announce the deal in the early hours this morning (Wednesday 15 July). The agreement includes a timetable for governing party VMRO-DPMNE leader Nikola Gruevski to stand down in favour of a new Prime Minister in a new Government which will be including some ministerial appointments from the opposition SDSM party and joint arrangements for early elections on 24 April 2016.

A linked agreement will see special prosecutors appointed to pursue cases arising from the scandal surrounding illegal interception of telephone calls which prompted the current political crisis.

MEP Richard Howitt said:

“It has taken us months to get here but it is an important step for the country. The prolonged crisis has had grave consequences for the stability of the country, its international standing and its prospects for progress towards European Union membership and it is not an exaggeration to say that the timing agreement could pull the country back from the brink.

“I am proud the European Parliament has joined the European Commission to facilitate the talks but it is crucial that this new agreement now leads to permanent progress towards democratic development in the country. This agreement reached today is a fair deal in the interest of the country and its citizens. But we expect the political leaders to fully implement this agreement, which will be followed closely by the international community.

“The announcement of a Special Prosecutor working with full autonomy on the alleged criminality and corruption arising from the interception of communications, must be pursued fully and impartially to meet Europe’s and the international community’s expectation that there must be legal accountability for any wrongdoing.”

S&D Group vice-president, Knut Fleckenstein, said:

“The S&D Group welcomes the agreement between political parties in Skopje. I praise the spirit of compromise shown by all the participants in the latest round of talks who have put the country’s interests ahead of party or personal interests. This is the European spirit that is essential for the country’s progress towards the EU. I congratulate the S&D Group’s sister party, the SDSM, in making very difficult concessions and signing the agreement which is a significant step in the country’s progress towards the EU.”