In May 2015, protests occurred in Skopje, Republic of Macedonia, against the incumbent Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and the government led by him. The massive protests began following charges brought up against Zoran Zaev, the opposition leader, who responded by alleging that Gruevski had wiretapped 20,000 Macedonian officials including journalists, judges, prosecutors, mayors and even government ministers and other figures. In the light of this political crisis in Macedonia, the EU commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, Johannes Hahn, guided an agreement on behalf of the European Union.

The government of Macedonia and the opposition decided to agree on resignation of the government and on  24th of April 2016, early elections, prepared by a transitional government, will be held. They also agreed on the appointment of a special prosecutor, and on the conduct of free and fair elections. Furthermore, the urgent reform priorities of the rule of law and fundamental rights, depolitisation of the public administration, freedom of expression, and electoral reform are all crucial for addressing the ‘systemic weakness’.

To express their support for the landmark agreement Hans van Baalen, VVD representative at the European Parliament (ALDE Group), Rainer Adam, Regional Director East and Southeast Europe of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF), accompanied by Daniel Kaddik, Project Director for Southeast Europe of the FNF paid a visit to the parties of the opposition on 5th August 2015. The delegation met with Goran Milevski, leader of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), and Zoran Zaev, President of the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) and discussed the challenges Macedonia will face in order to fully restore its democratic governance.

Indeed, Macedonia is in crisis, and the government is visibly developing more, and more into a dictatorship. The lack of independent institutions and media freedom is alarming, besides the corruption scandals, and the continuing fear in the society, especially among journalists, civic society activists, and politicians. The negative developments in Macedonia became visible for the public at large, when the Macedonian government was confronted with wiretapping corruption scandal. In addition, it became clear that huge amounts of taxes were spent for antiquisation of the city of Skopje, with a miscalculation of Prime Minister Gruevski of € 460 million.

Press Conference Hans van Baalen in MacedoniaHans van Baalen: “Macedonians have to choose, whether they want to live in a country like Estonia, my native Netherlands, Denmark, or Belgium, which have good small government, good education, and independent institutions-so called ‘clean states’ or in a country like Greece of political friends and no independence.” 

It became clear that the crisis not only worries the EU, and the international community, but also the majority (66 %) of the Macedonian society who wants to be part of the EU. This fact will give Macedonia the obligation and the opportunity to progress further in its democratisation process towards governmental transparency, free press, and proper use of public finances.

The opposition joined forces and showed that through cooperation they were able to unite all kind of nationalities, ethnicities, religions, NGO’s, the LGTB movements, minority groups, the Roma community, and political ideology. The fact that the opposition, and the civic society joined their forces to tackle the crisis is the hope that the nation so badly needs.

“It is important to give support, and help where needed, to the Liberals and the joint coalition of the opposition, for the prosperity of the people of Macedonia. They deserve a better government,” Daniel Kaddik said.

There is hope that after a good result for the liberals in the upcoming elections, Macedonia will become a ‘clean’ and free state, just as the Macedonia anthem symbolically states “Macedonia is free and free to live”.

Interview with Hans van Baalen, MEP, and Vice-President of the ALDE Party, at the LDP Headquarter in Skopje