Howitt: The Agreement pulled Macedonia back from the brink

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A cross-party agreement between the Macedonian political parties to end the country’s political crisis jointly mediated by the European Commission and European Parliament has been described by S&D Group’s mediator MEP Richard Howitt as ‘pulling the country back from the brink.’

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The Socialists and Democrats Group’s foreign affairs coordinator who mediated in the four person team and who had previously helped negotiate the earlier ‘1st March agreement’ to overcome a previous breakdown in the country’s parliament, said he hoped new agreement could begin the process of building permanent progress for democratic development in the country and guarantee its Euro-Atlantic perspective.

Following over twelve hours of talks in the country’s capital Skopje, MEP Richard Howitt joined European Commissioner Johannes Hahn and the leaders of the country’s four main political parties to announce the deal in the early hours on Wednesday. The agreement includes a timetable for governing party VMRO-DPMNE leader Nikola Gruevski to stand down in favour of a new Prime Minister in a new Government which will be including some ministerial appointments from the opposition SDSM party and joint arrangements for early elections on 24 April 2016, the Socialists and Democrats Group said in a press release.

A linked agreement will see special prosecutors appointed to pursue cases arising from the scandal surrounding illegal interception of telephone calls which prompted the current political crisis.

“It has taken us months to get here but it is an important step for the country. The prolonged crisis has had grave consequences for the stability of the country, its international standing and its prospects for progress towards European Union membership and it is not an exaggeration to say that the timing agreement could pull the country back from the brink,” MEP Richard Howitt said.

I am proud the European Parliament has joined the European Commission to facilitate the talks but it is crucial that this new agreement now leads to permanent progress towards democratic development in the country. This agreement reached is a fair deal in the interest of the country and its citizens. But we expect the political leaders to fully implement this agreement, which will be followed closely by the international community, Howitt added.

“The announcement of a Special Prosecutor working with full autonomy on the alleged criminality and corruption arising from the interception of communications, must be pursued fully and impartially to meet Europe’s and the international community’s expectation that there must be legal accountability for any wrongdoing” Howitt underlined.