US Diplomat: Unresolved Extortion Probe Could Undermine N. Macedonian Accession Talks

This story originated in FILE – Newly elected President of North Macedonia Stevo Pendarovski, right, walks with outgoing president Gjorge Ivanov, during his inauguration ceremony in Skopje, North Macedonia, May 12, 2019.The country changed its name from Macedonia to North Macedonia in February, ending a more than two-decade dispute with Greece over its name, and removing an obstacle to EU and NATO membership.Just last week, EU commissioner Johannes Hahn said Skopje needs to reform the judiciary to ensure it can handle high-level crime and corruption cases before the EU can set a date to start accession talks, but that he was “confident that the decision (on the start of EU accession talks) will be taken in October.”Palmer said he’s optimistic talks can begin this fall, but that resolving the Janeva investigation will be key to ensuring it happens.Both of North Macedonia’s major political parties have been squabbling over the drafting of a law to regulate the prosecution, which will determine the fate of the special prosecutor’s office that Janeva used to run.“We believe that North Macedonia has earned that opportunity [to have EU accession talks begin this year], but … signals that the government sends — and the success of the SPO law — will be important to that.”FILE – Protesters take part in a demonstration near the Greek Parliament against the agreement with Skopje to rename neighbouring country Macedonia as the Republic of North Macedonia, Jan. 20, 2019 in Athens.Whether new legislation can be ratified, a precondition for EU accession talks, will determine the pace of North Macedonia’s European accession process, which is why both U.S. and EU officials have repeatedly pressed both parties, the right-wing opposition VMRO-DPMNE and ruling Social Democratic Union, to come to an agreement.Meetings between party officials earlier this week produced indications of progress, but working groups are still in negotiations.“It’s important that these parties come together, negotiate, resolve their differences and reach an agreement on how the SPO can be reformed or modified in a manner that advances the interests of the country,” Palmer told VOA.“There’s been enough politicking. The time for politicking is over. Now is the time for statesmanship,” he said.

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