Monday May 11, 2015 marked the 7th day of protests since the publication of wire-tapped conversations between the Minister of Interior, Jankulovska and high government officials on the murder of Martin Neshkoski. This protest came in the aftermath of the police action in Kumanovo, where a terrorist group was surrounded and engaged in combat in densely-populated area.
In light of these events, the protesters wore black and white shirts, carried flowers and lighted up candles in memory of the policemen murdered. The protests were peaceful and the protesters observed a minute of silence in paying respect to the victims and in solidarity with the citizens of Kumanovo.
Although the protest was smaller than previously, with about 1000 participants, they weren’t allowed to pay tribute to the fallen soldiers of WWII, at the monument on the grounds of the government. This is the first time since the end of WWII that citizens weren’t allowed to honor the fallen in the fight against fascism.
Macedonian media was present, but the engagement and interest of foreign reporters was much greater than that of their local counterparts. A worrying fact is the detention of two journalists in Kumanovo, Julia Druelle and Marcel van der Steel, by the police forces in Kumanovo. The reasoning of the police was that they were reporting without a journalistic authorization from Macedonia, and were held for 22 hours with demands to sign a declaration saying they disobeyed the zone prohibited by the police. In the end, with the involvement of the OSCE and their respective embassies, the two journalists were released.
The ambassadors of the United States, the European Union, France, Italy, the United Kingdom and Germany held a joint press conference after the meeting with the Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nikola Poposki. Their statement is attached below:
“On this day of mourning and on behalf of the United States, France, Italy, the United Kingdom, Germany, and the European Union, we expressed today our condolences to Prime Minister Gruevski and the people of Macedonia for the tragic deaths of the brave police officers who were killed yesterday in and around Kumanovo, and we shared our sympathies for the suffering of the citizens of Kumanovo who were caught up in the violence. We offered to assist in any way that we can.
We join with citizens throughout the country and political leaders in denouncing violence. We welcome the President’s initiative to meet with all political parties, and we appeal to citizens to continue exercising restraint in response to the weekend’s tragedy, as well as calm in any group assembly in the coming weeks.
As well as discussing the events in Kumanovo in our meeting today with Prime Minister Gruevski, we have also reconfirmed the friendship of the people of our countries and organization with the people of Macedonia. We have long supported Macedonia’s efforts to join the EU and NATO, and as friends and partners we have also expressed our concerns about the ongoing political crisis.
We have specifically reiterated our concerns to the Prime Minister that his government has not made progress towards accounting for the many allegations of government wrongdoing arising from the disclosures. This continued inaction casts serious doubt on the Government of Macedonia’s commitment to the democratic principles and values of the Euro-Atlantic community. Continued failure to demonstrate this commitment with concrete action will undermine Macedonia’s progress towards EU and NATO membership.
We have also expressed our expectation that in the case of disclosures that reveal clearly unacceptable behavior, appropriate political and legal measures are taken against those responsible. In order to address institutional weaknesses highlighted by the disclosures, we call on the government to consider specific reforms, including on the integrity of the electoral system, media freedom, independence of the judiciary, freedom of speech and whistle-blower protection.
Finally, we continue to fully support the fundamental democratic right of citizens to assemble and peacefully protest, and we reiterate our appeal to all sides to refrain from violence. The peaceful exercise of democratic rights and rejecting aggressive acts towards fellow citizens – whether police officers or demonstrators – is a fitting tribute to the courage and sacrifice of those who gave their lives in service to the people of Macedonia.
We will be meeting with Mr. Zaev and Mr. Ahmeti in the days ahead to share similar messages.”