Washington (AFP) – The United States on Wednesday condemned the Macedonian president’s decision to block an investigation into a wiretapping scandal, warning it would damage his country’s chances of joining NATO and the European Union.
President Gjorge Ivanov said he had put a halt to the judicial inquiry “in order to put an end to this political crisis” ahead of elections planned for June.
But a spokesman for the US State Department said that in Washington’s view his decision would “protect corrupt officials and deny justice to the people of Macedonia.
“It will also further undermine Macedonian rule of law, the integrity of its judicial institutions and the credibility of its leaders’ commitment to the fundamental values of NATO and the European Union,” John Kirby said.
Macedonia has been a candidate for EU membership since 2005 but accession talks have yet to open and its prolonged political crisis has not improved its chances.
Macedonia’s application to join NATO was blocked in 2008 by Greece, which objects to the former Yugoslavian republic’s name, which it shares with a Greek region.
The United States urged Ivanov to reconsider his decision and allow a prosecutor to continue his probe into allegations of illegal wiretapping and corruption.
“We also encourage the government and parties to continue working on reforms that will strengthen democratic institutions and return Macedonia to a path towards credible elections and Euro-Atlantic integration,” Kirby said.
Last year, the opposition Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) accused then prime minister Nikola Gruevski of wiretapping 20,000 people, including politicians and journalists, and said the recordings revealed high-level corruption.
The government denied the accusations and in return filed charges against SDSM leader Zoran Zaev, accusing him of attempting to destabilize the country.
Gruevski was among those targeted in the probes, along with Zaev, former interior minister Gordana Jankulovska and ex-intelligence chief Sasho Mijalkov.
The premier stepped down in January, paving the way for parliamentary elections, but the opposition plans to boycott the poll, saying it fears electoral fraud.