CrisisWatch

Tracking Conflict Worldwide

CrisisWatch is our global conflict tracker, a tool designed to help decision-makers prevent deadly violence by keeping them up-to-date with developments in over 70 conflicts and crises, identifying trends and alerting them to risks of escalation and opportunities to advance peace.

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August 2020

Europe & Central Asia

North Macedonia

Newly elected PM-designate reached agreement on new coalition govt. Following his election as PM-designate mid-July, head of Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) party Zoran Zaev 18 Aug reached agreement on new coalition govt with Albanian party Democratic Union for Integration (BDI) led by Ali Ahmeti; under coalition agreement, there will be four deputy PMs – three nominated by SDSM and one by Democratic Union for Integration, and Zaev will remain PM but will transfer role to ethnic Albanian proposed by BDI one hundred days before next election; parliament 31 Aug endorsed new coalition govt led by Zaev as PM. Meanwhile, European Commission 11 Aug signed Memorandum of Understanding for €160mn macro-financial assistance program to support govt in curbing economic fallout of COVID-19 pandemic.

July 2020

Europe & Central Asia

North Macedonia

Country held parliamentary elections in mid-July. Following 15 July parliamentary elections, ruling party Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) led by former PM Zoran Zaev emerged as strongest party with 46 seats but failed to win majority; opposition VMRO-DPMNE followed closely with 44 seats, while Albanian Democratic Union for Integration won 15 seats; opposition parties collectively submitted over 177 individual complaints to Administrative Court on alleged electoral violations. Following 2019 decision to reject opening of accession talks, EU Commission 1 July presented to EU Council draft negotiating framework for North Macedonia, laying out guidelines and principles for accession talks. Democratic Union for Integration leader Ali Ahmeti 22 July confirmed he had accepted request for questioning from Kosovo Specialist Prosecutor’s Office on wartime and post-war crimes by Kosovo Liberation Army, of which he was a member.

June 2020

Europe & Central Asia

North Macedonia

Party leaders set new date for parliamentary elections. After March postponement of 12 April elections over concerns surrounding COVID-19 outbreak, leader of ruling party Social Democratic Union of Macedonia Zoran Zaev and head of opposition VMRO-DPMNE party Hristijan Mickoski 16 June reached agreement to hold parliamentary election on 15 July.

March 2020

Europe & Central Asia

North Macedonia

EU leaders gave North Macedonia long-awaited green light to start formal EU accession talks and it joined NATO. Following French President Macron’s Feb announcement that France was ready to lift opposition to opening of EU accession negotiations, EU Enlargement Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi 2 March confirmed his recommendation that EU open talks with North Macedonia, stating govt had taken “significant steps to strengthen the independence of the judiciary”, including recent adoption of EU-sought Law on Prosecution. EU leaders 26 March gave approval for North Macedonia (and Albania) to start formal membership talks. President Pendarovski 20 March signed NATO accession agreement after Spain 17 March ratified accession protocol, final NATO member state to do so. Party leaders 17 March agreed to postpone 12 April elections over concerns about COVID-19, without setting new date for polls. Pendarovski 19 March declared state of emergency over outbreak.

February 2020

Europe & Central Asia

North Macedonia

During Munich Security Conference in Germany, French President Macron 8 Feb said he was ready to lift French opposition to opening of EU accession negotiations, pending positive results in European Commission’s report on North Macedonia suitability for EU accession due in March. PM of caretaker govt Spasovski 18 Feb urged EU to start accession talks before April elections, saying delay “stimulates the people to lose faith in the European perspective”. Parliament 15 Feb passed legislation (with required minimum of 80 out of 120 votes) proposed by ruling Social Democrat party and strongly supported by EU, which gives control over cases of major corruption and organised crime to public prosecution office; opposition VMRO-DPMNE party objected to manner of vote. FM Dimitrov 9 Feb said labour minister and VMRO-DPMNE member Rashela Mizrahi was jeopardising country’s Euro-Atlantic future after she appeared in press conference next to sign reading Republic of Macedonia, in violation of terms of 2018 agreement with Greece on country’s name; Mizrahi claimed she was correcting “injustice” given her party’s opposition to deal; parliament 23 Feb voted 62-26 to dismiss Mizrahi for violating constitution. Parliament 11 Feb unanimously ratified agreement to make North Macedonia member of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), opening way for ratification by NATO members.

January 2020

Europe & Central Asia

North Macedonia

PM Zaev 3 Jan resigned to allow transitional govt to take over ahead of snap parliamentary election in April; move follows EU decision in Oct not to formally open membership talks with North Macedonia after it was blocked by France, in blow to Zaev’s moves to advance EU integration including compromise with Greece over renaming of country. Parliament 6 Jan approved new caretaker govt under Oliver Spasovski, previously interior minister, to organise polls scheduled for 12 April; main opposition party, VMRO-DPMNE, running several ministries including Interior Ministry and Social Policies Ministry as part of caretaker govt. On taking up rotating EU presidency, Croatia’s PM said he would work to unblock EU accession process with North Macedonia.

December 2019

Europe & Central Asia

North Macedonia

Parliament 22 Dec passed budget for 2020 with 5% increase in expenditure from 2019 mainly going into increased salaries, pensions, and other social transfers; govt claimed budget to be investment in “human capital” while opposition said salary increase “bribe” ahead of April’s snap general elections. Formation of caretaker govt stalled after opposition VMRO-DPMNE party 30 Dec proposed as interior minister a military official, army lieutenant-colonel Dragan Kovacki, contrary to the constitution. North Macedonia participated in London NATO summit 3-4 Dec, even though Spanish parliament has yet to ratify its membership. Govt 8 Dec reversed pledge to act on advice of Venice Commission to review 2018 language law, which Venice Commission said “goes beyond European standards” and may impose “unrealistic legal obligations on public institutions” and slow down functioning of judiciary, and discard some agreements on bilingualism, as junior governing coalition partner Democratic Union for Integration (DUI) vice-PM in charge of European issues, Bujar Osmani, warned that changing 2018 law could return country to pre-2001 rights situation for ethnic Albanians.

November 2019

Europe & Central Asia

North Macedonia

Following Oct decision by European Council not to begin formal EU accession talks with North Macedonia due to French opposition, PM Zaev 14 Nov reiterated that “there is no alternative to the EU and NATO” for country; also noted “huge encouragement” from his Greek counterpart on North Macedonia’s EU aspirations, as well as neighbouring Bulgaria. Speaking at Russia-North Macedonia economic forum in Skopje same day, Zaev said efforts to improve economic cooperation with Russia not an alternative to Euro-Atlantic integration. Zaev met with Albanian PM Rama and Serbian President Vučić 10 Nov, agreeing to lift trade barriers between their countries.

October 2019

Europe & Central Asia

North Macedonia

European Council 18 Oct decided not to begin formal accession talks with North Macedonia (and Albania) following French veto, in move widely criticised for undermining EU influence and credibility in Western Balkans, and prompting frustration in Skopje, where it is feared rejection will weaken PM Zaev’s reformist govt. Amid calls from opponents for his resignation, PM Zaev 19 Oct called for snap elections, saying “we are victims of the EU’s historic mistake”, and that electorate will “decide the road we are going to take”; poll set for April 2020. European Parliament 24 Oct passed resolution calling decision a “strategic mistake” and called for European Council to unanimously back opening of accession talks at its next meeting. NATO Sec Gen Jens Stoltenberg 21 Oct confirmed North Macedonia’s NATO accession process “well on track”.

July 2019

Europe & Central Asia

North Macedonia

President Pendarovski 15 July said he expected North Macedonia to become NATO member by end of 2019. FMs of Cyprus and North Macedonia at conference in Greece 17 July said two countries would establish diplomatic relations at next EU Foreign Affairs Council summit in Aug 2019. U.S. Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian affairs visited North Macedonia and Greece 21-27 July and reportedly discussed issue of former’s desire to become member of NATO and EU.

June 2019

Europe & Central Asia

North Macedonia

European Council 18 June delayed decision on whether to hold EU accession talks on North Macedonia and Albania to “no later than October 2019” after vote requiring unanimous decision by all 28 EU member states failed to pass. NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg during visit to North Macedonia 3 June said alliance was “ready to welcome” country into alliance once all 29 NATO members ratify accession protocol signed in Feb.

May 2019

Europe & Central Asia

North Macedonia

In second round of presidential election, pro-Western candidate Stevo Pendarovski, backed by ruling Social Democrats, won with 51.7% of the vote, beating opposition-backed Gordana Siljanovska-Davkova; turnout reported at 46.6%. European Commission in annual enlargement report 29 May again recommended launch of EU accession talks with North Macedonia.

April 2019

Europe & Central Asia

North Macedonia

First round of presidential election 21 April saw virtual tie between two leading candidates, pro-Western Stevo Pendarovski who is backed by ruling Social Democrats, and conservative Gordana Siljanovska-Davkova, backed by opposition VMRO-DPMNE party; second round scheduled for 5 May. Greek PM Tsipras visited Skopje 2 April, first official visit by a Greek leader to capital since North Macedonia’s 1991 independence, for talks on improving trade and defence ties. Media watchdog NGO Reporters Without Borders’ 2019 World Press Freedom Index noted improvement in media freedom in country.

March 2019

Europe & Central Asia

North Macedonia

Skopje court 15 March sentenced sixteen people to jail for role in April 2017 attack on parliament, including former interior minister Mitko Cavkov, jailed for eighteen years for “terrorist endangerment of the constitutional order”.

February 2019

Europe & Central Asia

North Macedonia

Country changed name to “North Macedonia” 12 Feb in accordance with June 2018 Prespa agreement with Greece, after Greek parliament 8 Feb ratified North Macedonia’s NATO accession protocol, which was signed 6 Feb. North Macedonia to become full NATO member once all member countries ratify protocol. Police 20 Feb arrested former parliament speaker and two former govt ministers allegedly involved in violent invasion of parliament by govt supporters in April 2017, constituting “terrorist conspiracy to undermine constitutional order and security”.

January 2019

Europe & Central Asia

North Macedonia

Macedonia and Greece took final steps to implement June 2018 Prespa agreement resolving 27-year dispute over Macedonia’s name. Following several days of negotiation between PM Zaev and opponents to name change, Macedonian parliament 11 Jan passed four constitutional amendments (with 81 out of 120 votes) to change country name to Republic of North Macedonia, its final step in implementing June 2018 agreement, under which Athens would lift its opposition to Macedonia’s EU membership negotiations and NATO membership in return for Macedonian name change. Days later, Greek parliament 25 Jan voted to ratify Prespa agreement by 153 votes to 146. Zaev said “historical victory”, widely acclaimed by international partners including EU and NATO, would promote peace and progress in region, while Greek PM Tsipras called Macedonia “friend and ally” in efforts for regional security, stability and development. Greek govt 31 Jan said it would bring Macedonia's NATO accession agreement to parliament for ratification in coming days, upon which name change will take effect. Opposition to deal continued in both countries, with small protests outside Macedonian parliament and continued criticism over govt’s Dec changes to criminal code reducing punishments on cases at Special Prosecutor’s Office relating to 2015 wiretapping scandal, which some portrayed as move to secure sufficient support for deal. In Greece, defence minister resigned and PM survived confidence vote ahead of parliamentary vote, while estimated 60,000 joined protest against deal 20 Jan, with violence breaking out between police and some protesters. Separately, law extending official use of Albanian language across Macedonia entered into force 15 Jan.

December 2018

Europe & Central Asia

North Macedonia

Parliament 3 Dec approved language of draft constitutional amendment to change country name to implement name deal with Greece; vote on whether to adopt amendment expected 15 Jan, requiring two thirds majority. Parliament 18 Dec approved controversial amnesty bill for some participants involved in April 2017 violent attack on parliament during country’s political crisis; bill initiated by opposition MPs who agreed to support name change deal with Greece; judge 25 Dec reported dozens of people including opposition MPs who have been charged or convicted had submitted pleas to be amnestied.

November 2018

Europe & Central Asia

North Macedonia

Police issued arrest warrant for former PM Gruevski after court 9 Nov rejected his final appeal against two-year jail sentence for conviction on corruption charges. Gruevski reportedly fled Macedonia 11 Nov through Albania, Montenegro and Serbia to Hungary, where govt granted him political asylum despite Macedonia’s request to deny him asylum and extradite him. Govt 2 Nov submitted four draft constitutional amendments to parliament, part of process to implement name agreement with Greece. Several thousand people protested in Skopje against name deal with Greece 18 Nov and 28 Nov organised by opposition. First passenger flight in twelve years between Greece and Macedonia landed in Skopje 1 Nov.

October 2018

Europe & Central Asia

North Macedonia

Following several days of debate, parliament 19 Oct approved govt proposal to change name of country to North Macedonia, in line with June deal resolving name dispute with Greece, in return for Greece lifting its veto on Macedonia joining NATO and EU. Vote just met required two-thirds majority with 80 out of 120 votes, after eight members of opposition coalition voted “yes” against party line, laying out four conditions for their support including formation of parliamentary committee for proposed national reconciliation process. With approval to start procedure, govt immediately began process to prepare and submit draft constitutional amendments to parliament. NATO, U.S. and EU leaders welcomed vote outcome. Interior minister 22 Oct said police providing additional protection for deputies who approved name change, some of whom received death threats. Appeals court 5 Oct upheld two-year jail sentence for former PM Gruevski for unlawfully influencing officials over illegal purchase of luxury car; Skopje court 8 Oct sentenced former interior minister to six years jail for her role in purchase.

September 2018

Europe & Central Asia

North Macedonia

In 30 Sept consultative referendum, 91.33% voted in favour of NATO and EU membership and accepting 17 June name agreement with Greece, however opponents of name deal, who had called for boycott, also claimed victory due to low turnout at 37%. PM Zaev said vote gave “crystal clear message” and he would proceed with bid to pass name change through vote in parliament, which as a constitutional change would require two-thirds support (80 out of 120 votes). Govt reported 71 deputies support name agreement; Zaev said if parliamentary vote failed he would call early general elections. Ahead of referendum, opposition called for boycott, while country’s Western partners lent support to yes campaign, with NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg during visit 6 Sept saying alliance was “ready to welcome” Macedonia once it finalises agreement with Greece; German and Austrian leaders also visited ahead of vote, along with senior U.S. defence secretary Jim Mattis, who warned of Russian attempts to influence vote, and EU foreign policy chief Mogherini. Thousands marched in Skopje in support of yes vote 16 Sept.

August 2018

Europe & Central Asia

North Macedonia

Govt 22 Aug launched public campaign ahead of 30 Sept referendum on implementing 17 June name deal with Greece, which unblocks Greek veto on Macedonia starting accession process to join NATO and EU in return for country changing name to Republic of North Macedonia. Polls published late Aug, carried out by International Republican Institute, showed 57% of respondents favour entering EU and NATO under new name, and general increase in support for EU and NATO membership since Aug 2017. Albanian President Meta called on Macedonian Albanians to vote for the agreement in the referendum.

July 2018

Europe & Central Asia

North Macedonia

Following June historic deal with Greece ending decades-long dispute over country name, govt started preparations for referendum on name deal. Parliament 25 July voted to appoint new electoral commission required to organise referendum; came after delay after opposition VMRO-DPMNE withheld its support, demanding provision guaranteeing formation of a technical govt 100 days ahead of any future elections. Parliament 30 July approved date for referendum as 30 Sept, in vote boycotted by VMRO-DPMNE. NATO 11 July invited Macedonia to start accession talks, to take place once name deal fully implemented. Macedonia 17 July started technical screening process to assess readiness for EU accession talks.

June 2018

Europe & Central Asia

North Macedonia

Macedonia and Greece 17 June signed historic agreement resolving 27-year-long dispute over official name of Macedonia, after Macedonian PM Zaev and Greek MP Tsipras 12 June announced they had reached agreement on name Republic of North Macedonia (Severna Makedonija); deal also stipulates language as Macedonian and citizens as Macedonian/citizens of the Republic of North Macedonia. Signing ceremony attended by UN envoy in name dispute Matthew Nimetz and EU foreign policy chief Mogherini. Agreement paves way for Macedonia to seek membership of NATO and EU, previously vetoed by Greece pending resolution of name issue. Parliament 20 June ratified deal by 69 out of 120 votes, in session boycotted by opposition VMRO-DPMNE; President Ivanov said he will not sign deal, meaning it will require another parliamentary vote, set for early July. Referendum on deal scheduled for Sept prior to constitutional amendment to formally change country’s name; Greek parliament to ratify deal thereafter. EU, NATO, UN and many countries congratulated sides on deal. Greece 25 June told EU and NATO it no longer objects to Macedonia’s accession under new name; EU foreign ministers 26 June gave conditional approval to opening accession negotiations with Macedonia (and Albania), starting in June 2019. Nationalist opposition to agreement continued in both countries; hundreds protested against agreement in Macedonian capital Skopje and in Bitola near border, with protests continuing in Skopje.

May 2018

Europe & Central Asia

North Macedonia

Efforts intensified to find agreement to long-standing name dispute, with Macedonian and Greek PMs discussing it on sidelines of EU-Western Balkans summit 17 May, and their FMs at UN-mediated talks in New York 24-25 May; UN mediator Matthew Nimetz said talks had “intensified considerably”. During meeting in Brussels 27 May, FMs reportedly agreed on “a framework that needs more work”. Macedonian PM Zaev 30 May said talks in delicate and final phase, and any final deal would be submitted to a referendum in Sept or Oct, after being ratified in parliament. Zaev gave ministerial posts to two small ethnic Albanian parties in proposed cabinet reshuffle 22 May, increasing his support in parliament by five MPs. Skopje court 23 May sentenced former PM Gruevski to two years jail for “receiving a reward” of illicitly purchased luxury Mercedes; Gruevski said he was being framed.

April 2018

Europe & Central Asia

North Macedonia

Greek and Macedonian foreign ministers met in Ohrid 12 April for another round of talks to resolve ongoing name dispute; Macedonian Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov reported progress on some issues, differences on others; said they talked for first time about time frame and necessary steps “if a solution is reached and needs to be implemented”. Greek FM Nikos Kotzias said “fewer topics remain to be solved, however these are the hardest ones”. Dimitrov said that sides’ work groups came up with aligned draft document addressing issues including Greek fears of Macedonian irredentism toward northern Greek province Macedonia. FMs met again in Vienna 25 April with UN mediator in dispute Matthew Nimetz, who said “both sides are very dedicated to reaching a solution”. PM Zaev survived no-confidence vote in parliament 11 April by 62-40 votes. Opposition MPs ended four-month boycott of parliament in order to vote; parliament subsequently passed three bills required for progress on EU accession.

March 2018

Europe & Central Asia

North Macedonia

Macedonian and Greek foreign ministers met in Skopje 23 March to discuss solution to ongoing dispute over Macedonia’s name and reported making progress, days after govts exchanged proposals on name; met again in Vienna 30 March with UN mediator Matthew Nimetz, who reported “difficult issues” still need to be resolved but talks “moving in the right direction”. Estimated 10,000 people rallied in Skopje 4 March protesting against compromise on proposals to change name. Parliament 14 March passed law for a second time extending Albanian as official language across whole country, after President Ivanov vetoed bill passed in Jan. Opposition, which had tried to submit 34,000 amendments to bill and disrupt vote, said process was unconstitutional. Ivanov said he would again refuse to sign legislation, despite constitutional requirement to do so. Govt expelled Russian diplomat in solidarity with Britain over Skripal poisoning case, in which London claimed Russia was responsible for deploying deadly nerve agent against former Russian spy in the UK (denied by Russia), provoking angry response from Moscow.

February 2018

Europe & Central Asia

North Macedonia

Month saw further progress toward resolution of longstanding name-dispute with Greece, which would unblock path to launch of EU accession talks and NATO membership. Macedonia 6 Feb officially renamed main airport and highway, both previously named after Alexander the Great, in concession to Greece; PM Zaev same day said govt prepared to add geographical qualifier to name Macedonia; 19 Feb said he hopes dispute will be resolved by July NATO summit. Reported options under negotiation include: Republic of North Macedonia; Republic of Upper Macedonia; Republic of Vardar Macedonia; and Republic of Macedonia (Skopje). In late Feb media interview Zaev said he was hopeful of a settlement but said Greek demand for Macedonia to amend its constitution to show it had no claim on Greek territory was unreasonable. Nationalist elements in both countries continued to express opposition to compromise on name dispute: police in Greek capital Athens reported 140,000 people joined protest 4 Feb against use of name “Macedonia” by northern neighbour; in Skopje, several thousand protested against name change 27 Feb. European Commission President Juncker during late Feb visit praised progress on name dispute and pace of govt reforms. EU 6 Feb launched new enlargement strategy for Western Balkans, calling on countries to “urgently redouble their efforts, address vital reforms and complete their political, economic and social transformation”.

January 2018

Europe & Central Asia

North Macedonia

Month saw increasing momentum to resolve longstanding dispute with Greece over country’s name, which has held back Macedonia’s progress on joining NATO and EU. Greek and Macedonian FMs met in Thessaloniki 11 Jan, reportedly agreed to take more active part in UN-mediated efforts to resolve dispute. Negotiators met in New York 17 Jan; media reported several name suggestions put forward for negotiation; UN mediator Matthew Nimetz said proposals not new, but being proposed in new context. Estimated 90,000 Greeks protested in Thessaloniki 21 Jan rejecting any formulation including word “Macedonia”. Meeting on sidelines of World Economic Forum in Davos 24 Jan – first direct meeting between PMs in seven years – Greek and Macedonian PMs agreed to intensify talks, announced mutual concessions intended to show good faith, including Macedonia renaming Alexander the Great airport and highway, and Greece to allow closer Macedonian cooperation with EU and regional initiatives; also said foreign ministers will take over negotiations. Greek PM Tsipras 27 Jan said he was ready to accept “composite name” including “Macedonia”. UN 29 Jan said talks had produced positive momentum. Nimetz visited Greek and Macedonian capitals 30 Jan-1 Feb to discuss effort to resolve dispute. NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg made first visit to Macedonia 17 Jan, said NATO would invite Macedonia to join as soon as name dispute is resolved. Parliament 11 Jan passed Albanian language law extending Albanian as official language across whole country, honouring pledge by PM Zaev during agreement on coalition with Albanian parties. President Ivanov 17 Jan vetoed law, claiming it violates constitution, however it is expected to be adopted through parliament in second vote.

December 2017

Europe & Central Asia

North Macedonia

UN mediator Matthew Nimetz met with Macedonian and Greek negotiators in Brussels 11-12 Dec to resume talks over ongoing dispute over use of name of Macedonia; last talks were in Nov 2014. Nimetz 12 Dec said issue “can and should be resolved” in 2018, atmosphere at meetings “much better”. PM Zaev spent New Year’s Eve in unofficial capacity in northern Greek city Thessaloniki, seen by some as sign of growing rapprochement. During first ever visit by a Macedonian PM to Kosovo, PM Zaev agreed to push for international investigation into May 2015 Kumanovo shootout in which more than twenty people were killed, and for which several Kosovo citizens were convicted in Nov; Zaev said issue “should not be a barrier” between the two countries. Opposition VMRO-DPMNE party appointed new leader Hristijan Mickoski after former PM Nikola Gruevski resigned.

November 2017

Europe & Central Asia

North Macedonia

Parliament 15 Nov voted 66-41 in favour of bill extending official use of Albanian across country (rather than only in areas where ethnic Albanians constitute at least 20% of population) in its first reading; later in month postponed adoption of new law after EU reportedly called for it to focus on reforms required for membership talks. Skopje court 2 Nov convicted 33 ethnic Albanian men of plotting attacks and clashing with police, sentencing them to between twelve years and life jail terms over role in May 2015 shootout in Kumanovo in which eight security forces and fourteen suspected perpetrators were killed. Several of those convicted were Kosovo citizens, prompting protests in Pristina and elsewhere in Kosovo; Kosovo govt called for international investigation into incident and recalled its ambassador for consultations. Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias 5 Nov told Kathimerini newspaper that name dispute with Macedonia “must be settled within the first half of 2018”; UN mediator in name dispute, Matthew Nimetz, said fresh round of talks scheduled for 11-12 Dec in Brussels. Former PM Grueski 28 Nov led protest against arrest of 36 people including MPs from his VMRO DPMNE party accused of role in April unrest in parliament.

October 2017

Europe & Central Asia

North Macedonia

Ruling Social Democrats (SDSM) made large gains in local elections, winning 40 out of 81 municipalities in 15 Oct first round, including capital Skopje, against three for opposition VMRO-DPMNE and two for junior ruling party Democratic Union for Integration. SDSM won eighteen out of 35 remaining municipalities in 29 Oct second round, giving it total of 57 municipalities. VMRO-DPMNE, which won five seats overall, rejected results. OSCE monitors said elections democratic, competitive and respected fundamental freedoms.

September 2017

Europe & Central Asia

North Macedonia

Campaigning began for 15 Oct local elections, seen by observers as popularity test of PM Zaev’s new govt.

August 2017

Europe & Central Asia

North Macedonia

Macedonia and Bulgaria 1 Aug signed friendship treaty including trade and transport commitments, Bulgaria to support Macedonia’s bid to join NATO and EU. Opposition VMRO DPMNE continued efforts to stall work of parliament and launch no-confidence motions against govt ministers, prompting concerns over parliament’s ability to advance reform agenda. Parliament 16 Aug dismissed controversial public prosecutor Marko Zvrlevski. Serbia 20 Aug withdrew its diplomatic staff following allegations of “offensive intelligence activities” against Serbia; leaders later agreed on dialogue to improve relations. Macedonian and Greek foreign ministers met in Skopje 31 Aug, discussed ways to revive talks on their longstanding dispute on use of name Macedonia.

July 2017

Europe & Central Asia

North Macedonia

Small ethnic Albanian party DPA – Movement for Reforms, which holds three seats in parliament, 12 July said it would withdraw support for PM Zaev’s new govt unless it adopts law extending official use of Albanian “within a reasonable time”. Matthew Nimetz, UN special envoy in longstanding dispute between Macedonia and Greece over use of name Macedonia, following visit to Skopje and Athens early July said no breakthrough in name talks anticipated in coming months; Zaev late month told Politico if Greek side is “prepared to help us, we are prepared to think about everything that will be helpful”. Macedonia and Bulgaria 13 July agreed text of friendship treaty, to be signed 1 Aug, to end historic tensions and improve relations. Appeals Court 24 July rejected plea by special prosecutor to detain former PM Gruevski and other former ministers ahead of their trials for election fraud. Helsinki Committee for Human Rights 25 July reported sharp rise in hate crimes over previous year, nearly half apparently with ethnic motive, many with political motive. Joint military exercise with U.S. began in central Macedonia late July.

June 2017

Europe & Central Asia

North Macedonia

During visit to Brussels 12 June, new PM Zaev told senior EU and NATO officials his govt will seek to secure progress by autumn on reforms needed for start of EU accession talks, and discussed options for revitalising NATO membership bid. EU Commissioner Johannes Hahn stressed importance of rapid reforms in judiciary and security institutions and resolution of longstanding dispute with Greece over use of the name Macedonia, which has held up progress on NATO and EU membership; visiting Skopje 26 June, Hahn said EU will help govt with key reforms, while Zaev said govt hopes for green light to open accession talks by year-end. New Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov met Greek counterpart Nikos Kotzias in Athens 13 June; Kotzias expressed his commitment to “just compromise” on name issue and further developing bilateral relations. UN special envoy in name dispute Matthew Nimetz to visit Skopje and Athens early July, first visit since July 2014. Special Prosecutor Katica Janeva 29 June charged former PM Gruevski and 93 others including other former senior govt figures in seventeen corruption cases; charges against Gruevski include election fraud. Gruevski said his party being persecuted; hundreds of his supporters protested outside criminal court same day.

May 2017

Europe & Central Asia

North Macedonia

President Ivanov 17 May offered mandate to form new govt to leader of Social Democrat SDSM party Zoran Zaev, following five months without govt after Dec 2016 elections. Ivanov, who had previously withheld mandate from Zaev despite his majority in parliament, citing Zaev’s acceptance of conditions set by ethnic Albanian parties, said “obstacles” for awarding mandate for new govt had been removed; Zaev reiterated commitment to “guarantee protection of unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity”. Followed increasing international pressure on Ivanov to offer mandate as route out of political crisis, particularly following protesters’ violent storming of parliament 27 April after it elected new ethnic Albanian speaker. PM-designate Zaev 28 May unveiled new cabinet, including seventeen ministers from SDSM, six from main ethnic Albanian party Democratic Union for Integration, and two from Alliance for Albanians; parliament approved new coalition govt 31 May. Special Prosecution 22 May launched investigations into new corruption probes, including two involving former PM Gruevski.

April 2017

Europe & Central Asia

North Macedonia

Political standoff turned violent late month as protesters opposed to new opposition Social Democrat (SDSM)-led coalition govt stormed parliament after new ethnic Albanian speaker was voted in, injuring scores. Visiting Skopje 3 April, European Council President Tusk 3 April urged President Ivanov to award mandate to form govt to SDSM leader Zoran Zaev, urged country to “avoid anything that could further fuel ethnic tensions”; Ivanov said his position unchanged. VMRO DPMNE MPs (who won 51 of 120 parliament seats in Dec 2016 election) continued to filibuster parliament to block effort to elect new speaker and establish new opposition-led coalition govt, continued to call for fresh elections; street protests by VMRO DPMNE supporters against new govt continued. 67 MPs (out of 120 seats) voted 27 April to elect new parliament speaker, ethnic Albanian Talat Xhaferi; VMRO DPMNE called election “coup attempt”. Violence broke out as protesters stormed parliament and attacked MPs; over 100 people reportedly injured including Zaev and three MPs from majority parties and several journalists. EU, NATO and U.S. condemned violence and called for dialogue. Provisional interior minister Agim Nuhiu accused police of failing to do their job, tendered his resignation citing his failure to eliminate political influence in police.

March 2017

Europe & Central Asia

North Macedonia

Political crisis deepened as President Ivanov 1 March refused to give opposition Social Democratic Union (SDSM) party leader Zoran Zaev mandate to form govt, despite Zaev’s claim to have formed majority in parliament, saying that ethnic Albanian parties’ conditions for supporting Zaev could “destroy” country. Zaev called Ivanov’s refusal to award him mandate “coup”, said Ivanov “has pushed Macedonia into a constitutional and national crisis”. EU foreign policy chief Mogherini visited Macedonia 2 March in bid to resolve crisis, reportedly urged Ivanov to give Zaev mandate; U.S. and OSCE expressed similar concerns, while Moscow voiced support for Ivanov and former ruling party Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organisation – Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity (VMRO DPMNE). Main ethnic Albanian party DUI 4 March said it would join govt led by Zaev. Zaev 10 March presented platform in detail in attempt to allay Ivanov’s concerns, said it would “strictly abide” by terms of constitution. Former PM Gruevski continued to call for fresh election; his supporters continued daily protests. Mogherini 6 March urged political leaders not to “turn this into an inter-ethnic confrontation that would ruin the country and probably spread further”. Four masked people threw Molotov cocktail at Albanian museum in Bitola 7 March. EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn 21 March visited Skopje in effort to help resolve crisis. Parliament convened 27 March to elect new speaker; VMRO DPMNE MPs attempted to prevent vote with filibuster.

February 2017

Europe & Central Asia

North Macedonia

After failure of former ruling party VMRO DPMNE to form new govt by late Jan deadline following 11 Dec elections, President Ivanov 2 Feb said he would give mandate for forming new govt to party which can demonstrate proof of majority in parliament. VMRO DPMNE called for new elections, accused opposition of sacrificing national interest by making too many concessions to ethnic Albanian parties to win their support for coalition. Opposition Social Democratic Union (SDSM) leader Zoran Zaev 27 Feb claimed mandate to form govt after main ethnic Albanian party DUI and two other ethnic Albanian parties said they would back SDSM, giving him majority support in parliament; conditions for their support included passage of new language law extending use of Albanian as second official language throughout country. Former PM Gruevski 26 Feb said deal unconstitutional and jeopardised state interests. Protests led by VMRO DPMNE broke out in Skopje 27 Feb, drawing thousands and spreading to other towns next day; protesters criticising deal with Albanian parties and calling for protection of ethnic Macedonian interests. Two journalists covering protests in Skopje assaulted 28 Feb.

January 2017

Europe & Central Asia

North Macedonia

Nikola Gruevski’s VMRO DPMNE party, which narrowly won most seats in closely-contested 11 Dec elections, failed to meet 29 Jan deadline to form new govt as ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integration (DUI), VMRO DPMNE’s partner in previous coalition govt, said it had not decided whether to join new coalition; VMRO DPMNE called for few elections. Representatives of three out of the four ethnic Albanian parties – DUI, Movement for Reform – Democratic Party of Albanians (LR-PDSH) and Besa Movement – 7 Jan signed joint declaration outlining preconditions for their participation in govt, including making Albanian an official language. Special Prosecutor (SJO) investigating wiretapping scandal 18 Jan announced it was dropping all charges including blackmail against opposition leader Zoran Zaev due to lack of evidence.

December 2016

Europe & Central Asia

North Macedonia

Close result in 11 Dec snap early general elections, which were intended to end country’s two-year political crisis, saw no party win outright majority, resulting in spike in political tensions and uncertainty over formation of new govt. Election commission (DIK) announced ruling VMRO-DPMNE won 38.06% (51 of 120 seats in parliament) against 36.69% (49 seats) for opposition Social Democrats (SDSM) and 7.33% (ten seats) for ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integration (DUI), which was junior ruling party in previous govt coalition; three smaller ethnic Albanian parties won remaining ten seats. Margins of only a few hundred votes reported in some places; SDSM won most votes in capital Skopje, while VMRO-DPMNE dominant in rural areas. SDSM and ethnic Albanian party BESA 12 Dec each submitted eight election complaints; VMRO-DPMNE accused SDSM of trying to “steal” vote. Thousands of VMRO-DPMNE supporters protested outside DIK 15-17 Dec; addressing them 17 Dec PM Gruevski criticised DIK, said VMRO-DPMNE would not accept election rerun, claimed Western diplomats attempting to influence outcome, also threatened to increase control over foreign-funded NGOs. U.S. embassy 14 Dec issued statement denying rumours that ambassador had tried to influence DIK. DIK 20 Dec ordered election rerun in polling station in Tearce, near Tetovo 25 Dec, however result did not change number of seats held by main two parties. Three ethnic Albanian parties met with Albanian PM and FM in Tirana 29 Dec to discuss conditions for joining govt. Public Revenue Office 20 Dec announced it would send financial inspectors to some twenty foreign-funded NGOs, denied claims that inspections were politically motivated.

October 2016

Europe & Central Asia

North Macedonia

After several days’ delay, parliament dissolved 17 Oct, paving way for 11 Dec early elections as agreed by main parties in attempt to end country’s political crisis.

September 2016

Europe & Central Asia

North Macedonia

Ahead of early parliamentary elections scheduled for 11 Dec, four main parties 2 Sept formed interim govt.

August 2016

Europe & Central Asia

North Macedonia

Four main political parties 31 Aug agreed to hold early parliamentary elections, already postponed twice, on 11 Dec; interim govt to be elected in Sept. Greek FM visited Skopje for meetings to improve communications between Greece and Macedonia, amid ongoing dispute between countries over official name of Macedonia, which has blocked Macedonia’s EU accession progress.

July 2016

Europe & Central Asia

North Macedonia

Govt and opposition parties 20 July reached new deal on political crisis, agreeing on cleaning up electoral rolls; media reforms to foster balanced election reporting; new interim govt to be formed 100 days before election; and support for special prosecutor investigating high-level corruption. Interim interior minister to be appointed from opposition, though with limited authority for appointments of police chiefs. Parties to assess implementation of deal and agree on election date by end-Aug. Journalists’ union criticised deal, said measures to ensure balanced reporting insufficient.

June 2016

Europe & Central Asia

North Macedonia

President Ivanov 6 June revoked his controversial pardons issued in April for 56 politicians (mostly from ruling party) and aides, protecting them from criminal prosecution in illegal wiretapping scandal; pardons had sparked widespread protests, exacerbating political crisis, and drawn condemnation from EU and U.S. EU and U.S.-brokered crisis talks saw rival political parties agree on new process to check electoral role; discussions on timing of early election and format of new interim govt, and on how to reform electoral role and media, continued. So-called “Colourful Revolution” anti-govt protests continued calling for constitutional court (CC) to rule to protect status of Special Prosecution set up in Sept 2015 to investigate wiretapping scandal and set up special court to try cases; tens of thousands protested in capital 20 June, after CC missed deadline imposed by protesters to make ruling.

May 2016

Europe & Central Asia

North Macedonia