The Gruevski affair undermines credibility of EU enlargement policy: Orbán must extradite him to Skopje

Nikola Gruevski

At the initiative of the Socialists and Democrats, the European Parliament called today on Hungary to extradite to Skopje Nikola Gruevski, the former Macedonian Prime Minister who fled to Hungary after being sentenced to prison in Skopje on corruption charges, and was granted asylum by the Hungarian government. For the S&D Group, it is the only possible way to proceed if the EU wants to remain credible towards countries aspiring to join. The EU cannot have one rule for them and another rule for us.

The S&Ds amendment calling for the extradition of Mr Gruevski was adopted on the occasion of the vote on the progress reports on five Western Balkans countries. These reports on Serbia, Montenegro, FYR of Macedonia, Kosovo and Albania assess reforms and put forward recommendations for each country - with the rule of law, justice, media freedom and the fight against corruption being the main priorities.

During the debate, the S&D MEPs emphasised again that EU enlargement is a powerful tool to stabilise and foster peace in Europe’s immediate neighbourhood. Therefore, we remain committed to the accession process of the Western Balkans countries.

S&D vice-president responsible for foreign affairs, Victor Boştinaru MEP, said: 

“What Hungary did in the case of Gruevski is a dangerous precedent. Never in the history of the EU has a member state organised such an extradition operation. This is a blow in the face of the EU.

“Each year, the EU adopts its recommendations asking countries aspiring to join our Union to respect a wide range of criteria. The fight against corruption and the respect for the rule of law are our most important demands. This is exactly what the Macedonian justice system did in the case of Mr Gruevski. The EU Enlargement Policy will not be credible if we cannot get our own house in order - Hungary should immediately extradite Mr Gruevski to Skopje. We cannot say there is one rule for them and another rule for us.

“We welcome the adoption of all the reports, which show that good progress has been achieved in all five countries. Of course, there is still much to be done. The reports draw attention to problems such as media freedom, and the deteriorating situation in relation to the freedom of expression, with the situation in Serbia particularly worrying. Generally, the whole region, also including the frontrunner Montenegro, is asked for additional efforts in the areas of the rule of law and the fight against corruption. Nevertheless, we believe that these remaining gaps cannot distract from the bigger picture: that the enlargement process is beneficial for both the aspiring countries and the EU.”

S&D foreign affairs spokesperson and the EP rapporteur on Albania, Knut Fleckenstein MEP, added: 

“The European Union has to keep its promises to our friends in the Western Balkans:  they should be a part of our EU family as soon as the accession criteria are met. We should ensure that the European elections do not slow down the reform process in the candidate countries nor fail their European aspirations. This means opening the accession negotiations with Albania and FYR of Macedonia, at the latest next year, in recognition of the efforts made by both countries, and granting visa liberalisation to Kosovo without undue delay. We also need more projects in the whole region of the Western Balkans with visible and tangible benefits for ordinary people.”

“This is particularly important in the run-up to the European elections: we, as politicians, must explain to our voters why it is in the self-interests of the EU to have stable, prospering and democratic neighbours on its south eastern borders. Enlargement is the best and possibly only way to achieve this goal.”