Howitt Upbeat About Resolution on Macedonia

The European Parliament rapporteur, Richard Howitt, says Macedonia can expect a positive resolution from the Parliament, now the recent political crisis has been defused.Howitt said the European Parliament will vote on April 8 on a resolution that he compiled, and the country can expect another recommendation to the European Council of an immediate start to Macedonia’s EU accession talks.

“We put the Resolution vote ahead of the European Commission Special Report, [due on April 16], and I hope they will both result in a positive decision at the European Council Summit in June,” Howitt explained.

Howitt noted that 203 amendments have been submitted to his resolution, mostly by Greek and Bulgarian MEPs.

But he said that he did not expect them to significantly alter the overall positive tone of the report.

The report will, however, mention the latest ethnic incidents in the capital, Skopje, this month, when Macedonians and then Albanians clashed with the police and in several cases attacked pedestrians and people in buses.

“We urge the normalization of inter-ethnic relations in the country,” Howitt reiterated.

His general note of optimism about Macedonia’s EU prospects comes after the feuding political parties on March 1 struck an EU-brokered deal, which ended a serious political crisis that had threatened to derail the country’s EU agenda.

The deal ensured that the opposition would participate in the March 24 local elections and end their boycott of parliament.

The Social Democrats started a boycott of parliament on December 24, after the government parties passed a budget for 2013 in only minutes, after opposition MPs and journalists were expelled from the chamber.

The crisis deepened when the opposition refused to submit a list of mayoral candidates by a February 24 deadline, after the government of Prime Minister Gruevski rejected their calls to postpone the local elections, or call an early general election.

The crisis threatened Macedonia’s EU agenda, as 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.

The report is tasked with assessing whether Macedonia has taken real steps towards reaching a deal with Greece over its name, to which Athens objects, whether it has improved relations with Bulgaria and whether it has carried out reforms at home.

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