Macedonia unrest: EU brokers plan for early elections

European Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy Johannes Hahn (centre), accompanied by the Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski (left) and opposition leader Zoran Zaev (right), address the media Image copyright EPA
Image caption Mr Hahn (centre) announced the deal flanked by Prime Minister Gruevski (left) and his rival Mr Zaev (right)

The EU says that it has brokered an agreement between Macedonian politicians to end months of unrest with an early election by April 2016.

The crisis was sparked by covert recordings which appear to show ministers plotting vote-rigging and the cover-up of a murder.

Adding to the instability, eight police officers and 14 ethnic Albanian fighters were killed in clashes in May.

The EU says details of the plan will be finalised next week in Brussels.

EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn said any final deal would allow the country's leaders to "use this current crisis as an opportunity to modernise the country".

Opposition leader Zoran Zaev has been releasing a steady stream of recordings since February, accusing the government of wiretapping 20,000 people, including politicians, journalists and religious leaders.

He says that scores of leaked recordings reveal corruption at the highest levels of government, including the mismanagement of funds, dubious criminal prosecutions of opponents and even cover-ups of killings.

Opposition parties have been boycotting parliament, accusing the governing coalition of fraud in the April 2014 election.

However, long-serving Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, who has won successive elections since 2006, has repeatedly rejected the allegations.

He has accused Mr Zaev of orchestrating a coup at the behest of unnamed foreign spy agencies who, he says, want to overthrow his conservative government.

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