FYR Macedonia's new election date set without cross-party consensus: we regret missed opportunity, says S&D MEP

FYR Macedonia's new election date set without cross-party consensus: we regret missed opportunity, says S&D MEP, Richard Howitt, VMRO party,

The unilateral agreement of a delayed election date in FYR Macedonia by governing coalition parties last night without consensus from the opposition in the country's continuing political crisis was deeply regretted by Richard Howitt MEP.

There was also no agreement to delay reform measures as part of the decision, insisted the S&D MEP, who was present in Skopje as part of the official mediation efforts seeking to find a solution between the country's parties, jointly with colleagues from two of the European Parliament's other main political groups.

Agreement to delay the elections had been required by midnight under the law for dissolving Parliament; otherwise the planned April date had seen the European Union and United States make the exceptional public warning that they would not recognise the results.

At the end of yesterday's talks which saw the new date of June 5th voted in Parliament, Richard Howitt MEP firmly rejected claims from the ruling VMRO party that the European Union and United States had given specific assurances that they will not further assess electoral credibility in advance of the new election date, and that both further media reforms and inter-party talks can now be delayed until after the elections.

Richard Howitt MEP, who is also the S&D Group's foreign affairs coordinator in the European Parliament, said:

"I personally clarified with both US and EU Ambassadors following the talks, that the claimed 'specific assurances' had not been given, and certainly the Euro MPs were not and would not have been party to doing so.

"The joint EU/US statement is absolutely explicit in saying the hoped for credibility of elections on the new date is still contingent on the political parties' 'hard work and playing by the rules'.

"Meanwhile a question agreed in advance for the press conference, led US Ambassador Baily to deliberately reply that 'media reform remains part of the electoral process'."

Richard Howitt MEP assured leaders from the country's opposition SDSM party - which is affiliated to the Party of European Socialists - that the S&D Group will fully maintain its support for them to be involved in all-party talks. The group would also continue to press for urgent reform proposals in favour of media freedom, which also have been jointly proposed by EU and US Ambassadors in Skopje, which he said were part of ensuring full implementation of the 'Przino' political agreement between the parties.

In their joint statement, parliamentary mediators Richard Howitt MEP (S&D), Eduard Kukan MEP (EPP) and Ivo Vajgl MEP (ALDE) wrote:

"We regret the missed opportunity to find a consensus between all parties. We dearly hope that all the political parties will make efforts to create the conditions for credible elections."