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The reference to inter-ethnic tensions is important to underline, as mentioned in the above Commentary, these tensions are largely due “to the divisive policies of the ruling party and lack of sensitivity for inter-ethnic relations”.
As we saw at the massive demonstration (17/05/2015) , it brought together all the ethnic communities united in their rejection of the government’s policies.
Macedonia has the worst record in media freedom in the Balkan region; the latest Reporters without Borders index ranks Macedonia in 123rd place, just above Angola, a drop of almost 90 places from 2009, when it was ranked in 34th place.
The Prime Minister, Nikola Gruevski, and his ruling party have pursued a systemic campaign against all those who openly criticize the regime.
Most alarming are the deep tensions that have reopened between the ethnic Albanian community, comprising 25% of the population, and the main Macedonian community, with a level of mistrust not seen since the bloody conflict of 2001, when several hundred people were killed.
The latest crisis to rock the country is the revelation of a vast wiretapping operation providing evidence of alleged corruption by a government that seems to ignore due process and operates by its own rules. Several of the released wiretapped conversations relate to alleged government interference in judicial proceedings as well as in judicial appointments.
The Prime Minister claims that those responsible for the wiretapping operation are foreign intelligence services, which he has refused to identify. He has accused Zoran Zaev, the leader of the opposition party, of plotting a coup against the government.
Zaev has been charged with espionage and has had his passport revoked.
It is time for the EU to use all the foreign policy instruments at its disposal to address in a decisive manner the crisis in Macedonia; not only for the sake of the country and its people, but also because of the potential impact in the broader region.
The only way out of this crisis is a much more robust and direct involvement of the European Commission and the European External Action Service. The Foreign Affairs Council at its next meeting should also focus on the crisis before it deteriorates further.
The setting up of a transitional government, which would prepare for a proper electoral process, is probably the only solution to overcome the crisis. This would help to restore some basic legitimacy to the institutions of the state and a restoration of the rule of law.
To assist in this transitional process, the EU should consider the appointment of a Special Representative with political clout who would be deployed for a fixed period.