The European Parliament rapporteur on Macedonia, Richard Howitt, says he may have to seek postponement of the Parliament’s resolution on the country in the light of the ongoing crisis.Leaving the country, Howitt said that if the Macedonian political crisis continued, he would have no option but to ask the European Parliament to postpone the vote out of concern for a negative report.
“This would, I understand, be one more chance lost to influence the European Commission recommendation in April and the European Councils’ decision that follows, and I am sorry if this becomes the case,” Howitt said.
In two weeks’ time, the European Parliament is due to start discussing Howitt’s latest draft resolution on the country’s progress, in which the European Parliament will urge a prompt start to accession talks.
But, in light of the latest political crisis, MEPs have submitted 203 amendments to the resolution, some expressing deep concern over recent events.
“I fear the country report could become a negative one,” Howitt said, explaining the reasons behind his move.
Howit’s visit came in the middle of a political crisis that some fear could derail Macedonia’s EU agenda entirely.
The trouble started on December 24, when the ruling parties voted for the 2013 budget in just minutes after opposition MPs and journalists were ejected from the assembly by security guards.
Since then, the opposition has insisted they will boycott local elections on March 24 if the government of Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski continues to reject their demand for parallel early general elections.
“The perception of what happened on December 24 is that it questions fundamentally the democratic credibility of this country – but the European Parliament does not believe in boycotts of elections in this or any country,” Howitt said.
The deadline to submit candidates’ lists for the local elections expires on Saturday at midnight.
Gruevski’s ruling party has denied coming under pressure from Brussels to postpone the polls.
If a boycott goes ahead, it will inevitably complicate the local elections, bringing their legitimacy into question.
The EU Council has said that any decision on opening accession talks for Macedonia will be based on the next report of the European Commission, due in spring.
The report will assess whether Macedonia has taken real steps towards reaching a deal with Greece over its name, to which Greece objects, has improved relations with Bulgaria and has carried out reforms at home.