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EC: North Macedonia cannot have caretaker government forever

Diplomats and senior officials in Brussels are closely following the situation regarding the elections in North Macedonia and talks between the ruling and opposition parties. They urge for consensus while saying that the caretaker government "cannot last forever", MIA reports from Brussels.

Brussels, 28 May 2020 (MIA) – Diplomats and senior officials in Brussels are closely following the situation regarding the elections in North Macedonia and talks between the ruling and opposition parties. They urge for consensus while saying that the caretaker government “cannot last forever”, MIA reports from Brussels.

“It is reasonable to contemplate about the elections, a caretaker government cannot last forever, but of course elections must be held if all prerequisites are met,” say EC officials.

According to them, all political parties must be committed to the talks and reach consensus over a date for the elections in a time when the country has no parliament and no democratically elected government, during a period of crisis that requires taking crucial decisions.

Boycott of either side or non-recognition of the results are scenarios that must be avoided at all costs, especially considering the fact that enlargement will return to the Union agenda in June, when the negotiating frameworks for North Macedonia and Albania are set to be released.

One should also not neglect the fact that a member-state, Bulgaria, is sending signals of discontent from certain aspects of the bilateral relations, whereas a government having full legitimacy can commit to solving potential bilateral disagreements, explain interlocutors in Brussels.

They says the elections must be flawlessly administered, meaning health aspects need to be considered so that the voting is safe, along with the desired presence of domestic and international observers from OSCE/ODIHR.

“International observers are not an obligation, but this provides legitimacy to the elections. If there are no international observers, there is room for challenging the process and the results. Therefore, their presence is important for the EU,” diplomatic sources told MIA.

ODIHR has said they expect a decision from Skopje so they can decide on the observation mission.

“Once a date for the election has been decided on, ODIHR will give careful consideration to the new timeline, taking account of the ability of observers to travel and any other restrictions that may be in place. However, we can’t make any plans until that decision has been taken.” ODIHR says in a response to MIA’s query.

ODIHR add they remain in contact with the authorities of North Macedonia to clarify all the possibilities for ODIHR observers.

Brussels would like to see progress in inter-party talks over the date for the elections, but the distant positions by the largest political parties SDSM and VMRO-DPMNE are not encouraging.

“It is true that September is far away, it is not understandable from our viewpoint why the positions cannot be approximated, but it is not up to us to say when to hold the elections. For us it is important to see properly administered and legitimate elections, while boycott will be the biggest problem,” say diplomats in Brussels and add the elections would also weigh on the country’s EU perspectives.

The European Commission has said it would release the negotiating frameworks in June, followed by their approval by Union member-states. In this context, the diplomats and senior officials recommend that North Macedonia is fully invested in fostering bilateral relations with Bulgaria and Greece, the two countries it has signed friendship treaties with.

The next EU General Affairs Council is slated for June 15 and if the EC fails to release the negotiating frameworks in time, it is possible that ministers discuss this issue at the July meeting.

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