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Macedonia's ex-PM Gruevski quits as leader of opposition VMRO party

Europe
11.12.2017
By our dpa-correspondent and Europe Online    auf Facebook posten  Auf Twitter posten  
Belgrade (dpa) - Macedonia‘s former prime minister Nikola Gruevski, whose reign was marred by scandals, ethnic tensions and deteriorating relations with neighbour Greece, has resigned as the leader of his opposition conservative VMRO party.

The party has been in disarray after catastrophic losses in local elections in October. Gruevski stepped down late Sunday, and media reports Monday said the VMRO will elect a new leader later in December.

"I resign in a moral act, taking responsibility for the defeat," Gruevski told the VMRO policy-making body.

Gruevski, 46, has been the head of the party since 2003 and prime minister between 2006 and 2016.

His tenure was marked by allegations of widespread corruption, which culminated in 2015 with accusations that his government illegally wiretapped tens of thousands of Macedonians. 

More than 90 people, including Gruevski, were charged in June.

Under Gruevski, Skopje‘s already tense relations with Athens deteriorated, with rhetoric linking present-day Macedonians with ancient Macedonia and its most famous leader, Alexander the Great.

The two countries are in a long-standing dispute over the name Macedonia, which Greece claims for its northern province and accuses Skopje of stealing Hellenic history.

The departure of Gruevski and VMRO from power already helped thaw  relations and the two sides were due to resume UN-mediated talks over the name dispute, after a three-year hiatus, in Brussels on Monday and Tuesday.

Greece blocked Macedonia from receiving an invitation to join NATO in 2008 because of the row and is blocking the start of its EU accession talks.

 

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