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EU Tells Macedonia To Stop Bickering, 'Clock Ticking' On Membership Bid

EU Commissioner Johanes Hahn (second from left) kicks off a series of talks with political leaders in Macedonia on March 21.

Johannes Hahn, the European Union’s enlargement commissioner, has said during a visit to Skopje that Macedonia needs to rise above political bickering and form a government as soon as possible to unblock its European Union membership path.

Upon arriving in Skopje on March 21, Hahn said in a tweet: "EU path open for Skopje after last [EU summit] but clock ticking. Need statesmanship instead of tactics. Economy hurting."

Meanwhile, at least 50,000 protesters demonstrated in Skopje during Hahn's visit on March 21 against a proposed coalition government between Social Democrats and ethnic Albanians, which the demonstrators decry as a threat to national unity.

Macedonia is locked in an internal political standoff over the next government and the treatment of ethnic Albanians.

Hahn was meeting political leaders in Skopje on March 21 to discuss ways out of the deadlock.

After December elections, nationalist VMRO-DPMNE leader and former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski was unable to build a governing coalition because he refused demands from ethnic Albanian parties for Albanian to be designated as an official second language.

Social Democrats leader Zoran Zaev agreed with the language demand and tried to form a coalition with the ethnic Albanian parties.

But President Gjorge Ivanov, also from the VMRO-DPMNE, refused to give Zaev the official mandate to do so.

With reporting by Reuters and AP