A simple reading of the contents of the agreement and the deadlines for implementation of the binding commitments is sufficient to ascertain that the public is manipulated when claims are made that “all obligations” have been fulfilled. The majority of the more significant commitments are at least two months late, while the implementation of some – the reform of the media sector comes to mind – has not even begun.
Teo Blaževski, 06.01.2016
“We will not even consider changing the date. We have honoured all the commitments from the Pržino agreement. This crisis must be solved as soon as possible, rather than drag on and intensify. If the date for the elections is changed, then the Pržino agreement is void,” said Ivo Kotevski, spokesperson for VMRO-DPMNE.
This is the last in line of statements given by VMRO-DPMNE and DUI representatives which underscore that holding the elections on April 24 is the ultimate goal of the Pržino agreement (signed on June 2 and amended on June 29, 2015), as they believe all its commitments have been honoured.
On the other hand, for the last month high-ranking SDSM representatives have continually emphasized that, unless all provisions are met, the upcoming vote will be yet another case of electoral fraud. The party’s leader, as well as other representatives, have demanded guarantees for ‘unblemished elections’ as the condition for their participation.
THE AGREEMENT IS CLEAR AND PRECISE
The claims made by VMRO-DPMNE and Ivo Kotevski, Chief of their Communications Centre, can easily be verified by looking into the terms of the Agreement.
As it turns out, only two items were met within the foreseen timeframe – the opposition’s return to the Parliament on September 1, 2015, and the agreement to select the special public prosecutor, reached on September 15, the deadline for this item.
Everything else – whether it is setting up the Special Prosecutor’s Office, appointing new members to the State Election Commission (SEC) with broad authorizations regarding the process of double-checking the electoral register, setting up a special investigative parliamentary committee dedicated to researching the circumstances of the appearance of the wiretapped phone calls and dedicating an existing committee to assessing the Administration for Security and Counterintelligence (ASC) in terms of the legality of its operations, the media reform, the general rule of law or, in even more general terms, the implementation of European Commission directives in this domain – is behind schedule or has not been implemented at all, with delays of two months or more.
Vistinomer has already broached such topics, both generally, in terms of the election procedure, and specifically, with dedicated pieces on the media and SEC.
MONTHS BEHIND SCHEDULE
The Special Prosecutor’s Office was fully equipped only towards the very end of 2015, while still being 2 prosecutors short of the 14 requested by Katica Janeva, the special prosecutor. Lest we forget, the deadline for the completion of this segment was September 15, 2015. Janeva’s appointment was the only task completed before the deadline.
A new secretary general of the reformed SEC was appointed only a few days ago, while two of its members undergo procedures for relief of duty and reexamination of credentials, respectively. As a reminder, the deadline to set up a wholly functional SEC was 31 July, 2015, with broader authorisations to be conferred by 31 September the same year.
November 2015 should have seen preliminary reports by two parliamentary committees, regarding the wiretapping affair and the ASC assessment. The deadlines remain breached to this very day.
Yet another vital item remains blocked. This is the issue of media freedoms which would guarantee equal air-time in the upcoming election campaign. The agreement states these reforms should have been completed by the end of August 2015. In practice, they were initially discussed in October and blocked by the end of November, a stasis which continued until the end of December 2015. The reforms involve two main structural changes – the reformation of the Agency for Audio and Audiovisual Media Services (the chief regulatory body for TV and radio stations, as well as printed media) and structural changes in the Macedonian Radio & Television (MRT), the public broadcasting service. So far, discussions between the parties and journalist associations have made no progress whatsoever and the commitment for free and fair elections cannot be honoured without free media.
Many other items and subheadings from the domain of the rule of law and media freedoms have not been individually mentioned but can be encompassed in the phrase ‘implementation of directives from the European Commission and other ad-hoc or standing bodies regarding Macedonia, with a view of solving the political crisis and in general.’ None have been implemented.
Taking all of the above into consideration, claims made by VMRO-DPMNE that they “have honoured all the commitments from the Pržino agreement” and additional comments to the effect that “if the date for the elections changes, the Pržino agreement is void” cannot be seen as anything other than run-of-the-mill manipulation of the public.