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Opposition MPs Lost for Words in Macedonia

June 1, 2013

Opposition MPs have started a “silence treatment” in parliament, protesting against what they call the government’s failure to honour an EU-brokered deal on ending a political crisis.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic, Balkan Insight, 31.05.2013
Macedonian Parliament

At Thursday’s session dedicated to legislators’ questions, opposition MPs in Macedonia, led by the Social Democrats, SDSM, were present in the hall but remained silent in a sign of protest.

They say the government is not honouring pledges it made on March as a part of a deal to end a months-long political crisis.

The say the government has stalled the formation of the promised commission of inquiry into the incidents of December 24 in parliament, which began the crisis.

They also say the coalition led by Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski’s VMRO DPMNE party is not willing to change the parliamentary rulebook and revise election legislation, as also agreed on March 1.

“We will reduce our participation [in parliament] to strict formalities until we see an honest political will from the authorities to resolve these crucial issues,” an opposition statement said.

The opposition said it will actively engage in parliamentary work only when the assembly discusses issues related to EU and NATO integration.

MPs said they chose this form of protest rather than an all-out boycott in order not to further jeopardize political stability, which could raise fresh questions about Macedonian readiness to join the EU and NATO.

On December 24, 2012, government parties passed a budget for 2013 in only minutes after opposition MPs and journalists were expelled from the chamber.

Weeks of street protests followed, along with a boycott of parliament and an opposition threat to boycott recently completed local elections.

In March, President Gjorge Ivanov said the commission of inquiry into the December events, which is to operate under his patronage, should be operational within two weeks.

However, several delays have followed since then due to the prolonged political negotiations between the government and opposition.

Prime Minister Gruevski recently blamed the opposition for the failure to form the commission, saying the main problem was choosing a head.

“We have made many attempts to reach out to the SDSM and choose a president of the commission. We proposed many people and they were all refused,” he saisd this week.

“In the end we agreed the SDSM would choose the president and in return decisions [in the commission] would be reached with consensus. They again refused,” he added.

Meanwhile, Brussels has urged Macedonia to form the commission of inquiry as soon as possible, saying it will boost the country’s chances of obtaining an EU accession talks start date this year.

The European Council is expected to make the final decision on this issue at a summit in June 27-28.

However, an important obstacle remains the longstanding Macedonian dispute with Greece over the use of the name “Macedonia”.

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