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Skopje: co-rapporteurs welcome new government and express hopes for sustainable and inclusive reforms

Ending a three-day visit to Skopje, Lise Christoffersen (Norway, SOC) and Valeriu Ghiletchi (Republic of Moldova, EPP/CD), co-rapporteurs of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) for post-monitoring dialogue with “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”, made the following statement:

“We welcome the formation of a new government on 31 May 2017, which, we hope, will put an end to the political crisis which has been affecting the functioning of democratic institutions since April 2014. We also welcome the commitment expressed by newly-appointed Prime Minister Mr Zaev to promote inclusive governance and to work for the benefit of all citizens, which is of utmost importance in a polarised society.”

“There is much expectation among citizens, who aspire to reform and further European integration. They should not be disappointed. Early parliamentary elections took place in December 2016, and their results were accepted by all political stakeholders. We now encourage the ruling coalition to build bridges, hear the concerns and fears expressed by various segments of society and provide a political platform based on the rule of law, democracy and human rights that will help build social cohesion and overcome past wounds,” they said.

“The country will have to face manifold challenges and major reforms that will require the adhesion and contribution of all political forces, including reform of the justice system, the strengthening of media freedom, the de-politicisation of state institutions and effective decentralisation. In 2015/2016, the four major political parties committed themselves to implementing the EC-sponsored Pržino Agreement and “Urgent Reform Priorities”. We now expect them to deliver and facilitate the launch of genuine, profound and sustainable reforms in line with the recommendations issued by the Venice Commission and other Council of Europe monitoring mechanisms.”

“We note the wish expressed by the newly-elected Speaker of the Parliament Mr Xhaferi to enhance parliamentary control of the government. We reiterate our condemnation of the violent and unacceptable attacks against Members of Parliament that took place in parliament on 27 April 2017. The parliament is and must remain a place where political ideas are debated, and agreements reached through peaceful and democratic means. All measures should be taken to prevent such violent events ever occurring again and to ensure full respect for parliamentary institutions.”

While acknowledging the work of the “Special Prosecutor for Crimes Related to and Arising from the Content of the Illegal Interception of Communications” Katica Janeva, the PACE co-rapporteurs hope for the proper conduct of the procedures relating to the illegally wiretapped conversations, including in the courts, and expect, inter alia, swift revision of the Law on the Protection of Privacy and the Law on the Protection of Whistleblowers, in line with the Venice Commission’s recommendations, to reinforce these ongoing procedures.

The PACE co-rapporteurs also discussed with the State Election Commission the work in progress on updating the voters’ list. They welcome the decision taken yesterday by the parliament to enable mayors to fulfill their obligations and exercise their competences until the organisation of the already overdue local elections, which will be held in October 2017. “The country is facing challenging times but needs to continue its democratisation process. The Council of Europe stands ready to further support the efforts of the Macedonian authorities,” they concluded.

During their fact-finding visit, the co-rapporteurs met the Speaker of Parliament Mr Xhaferi, the leaders of political groups, the members of the Macedonian delegation to PACE, the Special Prosecutor, the President of the Constitutional Court, the Judicial Council and the Supreme Court, the President of the Association of Units of Local Self-Government, the President and members of the State Election Commission, as well as representatives of NGOs, media and international organisations.