Zaev: No more pardons due to the SPO

Working groups of the government and the opposition sat Monday afternoon to see if they could find an understanding for the Special Public Prosecutor’s Office. The two sides have diametrically opposite plans for the future of Katica Janeva’s team and the chances of a compromise are very small, which makes it likely that the government will look for another way to find a solution on one of the key conditions for getting a date for accession talks with the European Union.

Prior to the start of the meeting, Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said that he will not bargain with the opposition on the Law on Public Prosecutor’s Office, which should strengthen the SPO and become part of the regular prosecution with all of its capacities. He shared his position after being asked whether an agreement with the opposition was possible, by which the convicts for the April 27 incidents would be granted new pardons, and in turn the government will have over 80 votes in Parliament for the new status of the Special Prosecutor’s Office.

“The pardons are over. The pardons Parliament granted for April 27 were in the spirit of reconciliation, when the country needed a two-thirds majority in Parliament, I publicly admit this and I stand behind these pardons. But Parliament can’t offer any new pardons. Neither can the Ministry of Justice or any other institution – not even President Gjorge Ivanov. The laws say so. Read them, and you’ll see he has no such option available to him,” PM Zaev said.

Keep working according to existing laws

The meeting of the working groups of SDSM and VMRO-DPMNE follows a week after a leadership meeting between Zoran Zaev and Hristijan Mickoski. The draft law on Public Prosecution implies that the cases of the SPO that are in court proceedings continue,.and the so-called “bombs” will not be used as evidence in those that were filed after June 20, 2017. The SPO will also prosecute grand corruption.

The working group of SDSM includes Minister of Justice Renata Deskoska and her deputy, Oliver Ristovski, while VMRO-DPMNE’s working group is headed by lawyer Toni Menkinovski. The main opposition party wants Katica Janeva to be replaced, and the government wants her to stay for at least another year, after which the there will be an election of a new head, and Janeva will have the right to run again.

“Who am I, and who is Hristijan Mickoski, to tell which prosecutors should be elected, and which should not, when in Macedonia there is a Council of Public Prosecutors and that is where this prosecutor’s authority is elected,” said PM Zaev.

He says he does not know whether Mickoski likes the investigators, the administration and the rest of the SPO, nor what Mickoski thinks of other parts of the draft law which he qualified as wonderful and rated with the highest marks and endorsements by the Venice Commission, as well as by other international factors. He noted that if the opposition decides not to vote on this systemic law, which needs to be adopted by a two-thirds majority, they could continue working according to the the existing laws, because, according to him, the Republic of North Macedonia must be set on solid legal bases and succeed.

Securing two-thirds majority getting more difficult

VMRO-DPMNE yesterday briefed that the party stays firmly on its views, and that it does not see t possibility of a deal if the government does not accept the party’s views. According to VMRO-DPMNE, the legal solution for the SPO is far worse than the current one, with SDSM getting an additional tool for fighting against political opponents.

“Janeva and her team have neither human nor professional credibility. They had four years to run the institution and to be a protector of law and justice. Instead, they used semi-mafia methods of hiding evidence, set fires and flood rooms to hide their traces,” Mickoski’s party said.

The so-called “White Palace” has already asked the opposition to suggest a new public prosecutor, to open cases suspected of being politically framed, and to adjust their positions for merging SPO with the Public Prosecutor’s Office.

The deadlines for reaching an agreement are short, followed by presidential elections, and the government is in a hurry to catch the last train to Brussels, and will try to reach a two-thirds majority even without the support of the opposition, as it was with the name agreement.

Political calculations say that securing the required majority in this case may be more difficult than changing the name of the country, since the SPO’s cases, apart from VMRO-DPMNE, are directly or indirectly affecting MPs from the independent parliamentary group (at least four of them), as well as the majority, such as DPA leader Menduh Thaci, who was recently sentenced to three years in prison for the “Titanic 2″case, while DUI coordinator Ejup Alimi was charged in the other case for election irregularities – “Titanic 3”.

SDSM and VMRO-DPMNE working groups will have to agree on the rest of the reform laws by the end of this month, such as the one for the National Security Agency, and the one for the coordination of the security-intelligence community. The ruling majority insists that these laws be adopted before the EC report in June. These two draft laws are on the agenda today at the session of the Committee on Defense and Security of the Assembly.

Goran Adamovski