Macedonia Party Leaders to Meet again on Monday amid New Protests
Leaders of the four major parties in Macedonia are set to meet Monday in a renewed attempt at solving the political crisis in the country.
The socialist opposition SDSM and its leader Zoran Zaev are demanding that PM Nikola Gruevski resign after a series of anti-government protests and recordings released by the opposition which purport to show evidence of corruption and government interference in many aspects of public life.
Gruevski, on the other hand denies, and accuses Zaev of conspiring with a foreign intelligence service. He turns down any calls to step down, arguing the government was formed according to Macedonians' political will.
But tensions have mounted in the past week with anti-government protests and an attack in Kumanovo, northwestern Macedonia, which earlier in May claimed the lives of eight police officers.
On Sunday, the biggest anti-government demonstration in Macedonia took place in the capital Skopje, and some of the protesters remained in a makeshift camp outside the government building in Skopje's central area.
Zaev was also among those who slept there, but departed for the town of Strumica in the morning where at 9:00 local time he was to attend a court hearing in Strumica over criminal charges of seeking a bribe of EUR 200 000 as the town's mayor.
A Macedonian news website, Independent.mk, informed recently that a video recording showing him while making the arrangements for the bribe was released on YouTube
As many as 30 tents formed a makeshift camp during the night, and a number of protesters (between hundreds and thousands according to different media reports) are determined to remain in the "tent city".
After a new political meeting aimed at easing tensions on Monday, Zaev himself "will return in front of the government [building]. Unless the Prime Minister [Nikola Gruevski] surprises us by handing his resignation - this would be the only reason to end the protest.
Meanwhile, a "counter-protest" showing support for the government has also been scheduled for Monday.
Macedonia Raises Concern among Bulgarian Analysts As Well
Kostantin Sabchev, who works for Bulgaria's daily Standart, warned in a Monday analysis that the situation in Macedonia, the attack in Kumanovo included, could trigger secessionist processes such as the establishment of the "Republic of Illirida" which "will join, alongside Kosovo, to the motherland [Albania]."
"And the resignation of Gruevski will hardly prevent the creation of a Greater Albania. This will be the worst possible scenario of the Balkans and Europe," he opines, citing reports in Macedonian local dailies [MK] which suggest Albanian PM Edi Rama met political leaders of ethnic Albanians in Macedonia during the Sunday protests.
Kostadin Filipov, who had worked for years as the BNT's Balkans correspondent, told the public broadcaster on Monday that Gruevski was likely to resign only to return to power after the next elections."
He warned against waving Bulgarian flags in Skopje, pointing to the fact that Macedonia's political crisis was an "internal problem" and that there was no reason "for us to interfere there".
Filipov reminded that Bulgaria had not yet talked Macedonian authorities into including ethnic Bulgarians as a minority enshrined in the constitution (alongside Albanians) and that the legitimacy of their demand was different to that of officially recognized groups.
Others, such as Gen Miho Mihov, Bulgaria's former Chief of Defense and now head of the Defense Committee in Parliament, Bulgaria, opined that solving the crisis in Macedonia was not in the hands of the EU and NATO.
In the words of Gen Mihov, also a former Ambassador to Macedonia, the boycott in Parliament, the fragile government, and the "symbiosis of party and state" achieved by the ruling VMRO-DPMNE are all issues of serious concern, but in the face of opposition leader Zaev "there is no strong alternative".
Ultra-nationalist (and staunchly Russophile) Ataka party's leader Volen Siderov, for his part, warned of the dangers of "Albanian terrorism" created by "America envoys".
"Please not that Kosovo is home to Bondsteel - the biggest US military base in Europe. It is no coincidence that just a few dozens of kilometers from this base the shootings in Kumanovo took place," Siderov noted in an interview with daily 24 Chasa.
He is referring to Camp Bondsteel, the main US Army base under KFOR command in Kosovo, the largest in the Balkans but certainly not in Europe.
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