From: Vincent W.J. van Gerven Oei
Commissioner Hahn’s Tweet Shows Bankruptcy of the EC’s Western Balkans Policy

An extortion scandal involving the Special Prosecutor Katica Janeva has rocked the North Macedonian political scene, even implicating the social-democrat pro-EU Prime Minister Zoran Zaev. Janeva was appointed as part of an EU-sponsored North Macedonian “justice reform,” investigating the wiretaps that led to the fall of former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and Zaev’s election.

In response to the publication of the wiretaps that revealed the extent of the scandal, former MEP and President of EPP women in the European Parliament Doris Pack tweeted out a call to the European External Action Service to issue a response.

“Why not any reaction of the EEAS? Citizens are writing and calling me, they feel abandoned!!! The name solution cannot be used to close eyes on criminal reality! North Macedonian PM named in third “extortion” video.”

As a result, Eurocommissioner Johannes Hahn called for an investigation of the “latest revelations”:

“The fight against high-level corruption must continue uninterrupted. Concerning the latest revelations, it is important to establish legal accountability for all crimes, including those arising from and surrounding the illegal wiretaps.”

The tweet of Commissioner Hahn not only shows how the European Commission’s policy of “justice reform”—intervening in the justice system as a way to manipulate internal politics—is backfiring, it also shows the double standards with which it does so.

MEP Pack tweets frequently about the Western Balkans, and has been often at odds with the European Commission in her critical appraisal of the situation. Especially in the context of Albania, she has voiced her concerns about several legislative initiatives of the Rama government, including the destruction of the National Theater and the “Anti-Defamation Package.” She also retweeted content about Albanian Electiongate, in which wiretaps revealed a massive vote buying and voter intimidation infrastructure set up by the Socialist Party during the 2016 and 2017 elections.

Partially because of the absence of EU pressure, Prime Minister Rama has been able to erase this deeply troubling scandal from the front pages of the media.

The parallels between the North Macedonian and Albanian cases are numerous: wiretaps published by foreign newspapers showing collusion between the ruling Socialist Party with organized crime.

Yet in one case – North Macedonia – Commissioner Hahn uncharacteristically followed Pack by calling for “legal accountability,” while keeping his silence on the case of Albania in support of the Rama government.

And where is High Representative Federica Mogherini, whose office has remained completely mum in both cases? Perhaps it is opportunism. Perhaps it is incompetence. Most likely it is both.

In any case, the revelations of high-level corruption in North Macedonia may come at the “right” time after all. They will give the European Council the right stick to “beat” North Macedonia with and not open accession negotiations in October.

This will no doubt lead to prolonged political instability in North Macedonia and sigh of relief in the Rama camp, whose decoupling nightmare will be thwarted.

And both Hahn and Mogherini, who have presided over perhaps the most disastrous five years of EU Western Balkans policy, will by then have left, leaving their mess for their successors to clean up.