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Elections in fYR Macedonia to go ahead as planned – "Change is both necessary and possible" says S&D MEP


03 Oct 2016


Regional Policy

There must be no excuses to delay elections on 11 December but the way these elections are conducted will show whether there is a real prospect of transferring power in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), S&D MEP Richard Howitt said at the end of a two day-mission in Skopje today.

Richard Howitt MEP, who is a mediator on behalf of the European Parliament to help overcome the political crisis in fYR Macedonia and helped negotiate the all-party Przhino Agreement which has made the elections possible, said that the country still has a chance to get its prospects for joining the European Union back on track, but attempts to undermine the work of the Special Prosecutor appointed to investigate mass illegal wiretapping must end.

He gave a message of support at the pre-election congress of the opposition SDSM party during his visit, visited the Special Prosecutor to discuss progress on her investigations and met civil society organisations to express support for their 'blueprint' for urgent reform priorities. At a press conference which concluded today's visit he said:

"I was proud to attend the congress and to deliver a message that a vote for the SDSM is a vote for a better standard of living for all Macedonians.

"It is for the people to make their own choice, but my message is that change is both necessary and possible.

"It is democracy itself which is in question in Macedonia and I want to say the European Union is engaging too with civil society and supporting many ideas in their document for urgent reform priorities, in the interests of a democratic future for the country.

"I welcome the fact that the political parties have come to an agreement, which we hope has provided sufficient democratic safeguards for the elections to go ahead, and we hope the presence of many observers from Europe and the international community will increase the confidence of voters to make their own free choice.

"I expect the elections to go ahead on December 11 and nothing the European Union says or does, should give justification for any attempt to further delay the elections using procedural excuses."

Speaking after meeting the Special Prosecutor, Richard Howitt MEP added:

"It is very disappointing that proposals submitted to all political leaders by Ms Janeva on witness protection have not been enacted and I want to endorse proposals from civil society to set up a department in Skopje Basic Court No. 1 for the cases under the jurisdiction of the Special Prosecutor's office to enable progress on the prosecutions in the same way that has occurred for those involving organised crime.

"Should there be a ruling of unconstitutionality against the Special Prosecutor, all parties have promised me and EU representatives that they would act in parliament to ensure her work is uninterrupted.  I expect them to fulfil that promise and also to refrain from public statements which could undermine her work and breach commitments given by all parties for her mandate as part of the Przhino Agreement."

After seven years with responsibility for relations with fYR Macedonia, Richard Howitt MEP will be standing down as a member of the European Parliament and will be replaced by Knut Fleckenstein MEP as parliamentary mediator for the country on behalf of the S&D Group. He concluded his visit by promising:

"I want Macedonia to be a member of the European Union just as much today as when I started and I promise you there will be continuity from the S&D Group and from the European Parliament to continue to support the reforms necessary and the country itself to realise that aim."