In his capacity as president of the European Council, Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek visited Macedonia two weeks before its elections. He reminded its leaders of the importance of fair elections, in terms of Macedonia's Euro-Atlantic integration hopes.
By Marina Stojanovska for Southeast European Times in Skopje -- 12/03/09
Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek (right) and Macedonian counterpart Nikola Gruevski inspect an honour guard on Tuesday (March 10th) in Skopje. [Getty Images]
Stressing the importance of fair and democratic elections, Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek visited Skopje on Tuesday (March 10th) and Wednesday.
Topolanek, visiting in his capacity as president of the European Council, met with his Macedonian counterpart Nikola Gruevski, President Branko Crvenkovski, Parliament Speaker Trajko Veljanovski and the members of the National Council for European Integration.
"You have a graduation ahead of you in the form of elections. I hope they will be free, democratic and that you will satisfy the eight conditions set by the European Commission," said Topolanek on Tuesday.
According to him, Macedonia has fulfilled all conditions for visa liberalisation, but if there is a problem, it is political in nature. He also stated that, together with the next country to chair the EU -- Sweden -- the Czech Republic would try to secure that benefit for Macedonia before the end of this year.
"Our priority is to have the Western Balkans join the European Union. We feel a major responsibility towards states" not belonging to the EU, said Topolanek. He called Macedonia's readiness for NATO entry "absolute".
According to Gruevski, Topolanek's visit came at the right time. Local and presidential elections come in two weeks. Gruevski briefed his Czech colleague about Macedonian aspirations for membership in both the EU and NATO, emphasising the importance Macedonia attaches to visa liberalisation.
While noting the EU could not "interfere" in the ongoing Greek-Macedonian name dispute, which he called a strictly "bilateral" matter, Topolanek said he hopes to see a resolution by the end of the year.
Gruevski expressed similar hopes. "After our southern neighbour has its elections in June, we'll have intense negotiations and find a solution that doesn't threaten Macedonian national integrity and interests," he said.
Crvenkovski issued his own statement after meeting with Topolanek, expressing confidence that Macedonia would have elections "in a peaceful atmosphere without incidents".
US Ambassador to Macedonia Philip Reeker and EU Special Representative Erwan Fouere have issued their own calls for fair elections. Violence and voter fraud marred the June 2008 parliamentary balloting, which had to be repeated in several districts.