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Former Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski (file photo)

The Macedonian Foreign Ministry has summoned Hungary's ambassador to Skopje to formally demand that the government in Budapest reject an asylum application by fugitive former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski.

The ministry said in a statement on November 19 that State Secretary Viktor Dimovski handed over a "note of protest" to Ambassador Laszlo Dukes as a result of Gruevski's escape to Hungary earlier this month to avoid prison time.

The Hungarian government was also urged to "act in the spirit of good bilateral relations and European values" to ensure the return of the 48-year-old former leader of the conservative VMRO-DPMNE party.

Gruevski, who served as prime minister from 2006 to 2016, was sentenced in May to two years in prison for unlawfully influencing Interior Ministry officials over the purchase of a luxury vehicle valued at 600,000 euros ($680,000).

Facing jail after his appeal was rejected on November 9, Gruevski fled to Hungary, a European Union member, where he sought asylum.

In the past, Gruevski has indicated he was close to Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban, whose government has formally denied having actively provided assistance in his escape.

In 2017, Orban offered his public backing to Gruevski during his campaign for municipal elections, in which his party lost to the ruling Social Democrats.

Gruevski is still facing three other trials, including over a major wiretapping scandal, and could be handed longer sentences than the one already given to him.

He claims the cases are politically motivated.

With reporting by AP and AFP
Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok (file photo)

BRUSSELS -- The Netherlands is proposing a new EU sanctions regime that would target individuals accused of human rights abuses worldwide.

Government officials from all 28 EU member states will meet in The Hague on November 20 to discuss the Dutch proposal outlined in a position paper called Towards An EU Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime.

The document, seen by RFE/RL on November 19, says the proposed sanctions regime "differs significantly from the existing EU geographically limited sanctions regimes," which it says aim to "change state behavior and are therefore political in nature."

The proposed regime "could target individual human rights violators globally, unrelated to the political context and intergovernmental developments. It could also be used against individuals belonging to non-State actors (i.e. rebel groups)," the paper says.

The document says asset freezes and visa bans should be placed on individuals who "commit serious human rights violations and abuses" such as extrajudicial, arbitrary or summary executions, enforced disappearances, and torture.

"We have seen in a number of human rights violations over the last couple of years where individual countries have introduced the possibility of implementing sanctions on individuals involved," Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok told RFE/RL on the sidelines of an EU Foreign Affairs Council meeting in Brussels.

"But currently there is not an EU-wide sanction instrument and of course sanctions are most effective if they would be EU-wide," Blok added.

Sergei Magnitsky (1972-2009)
Sergei Magnitsky (1972-2009)

On November 19, Russian authorities leveled new accusations at British-based financier Bill Browder, saying the vocal Kremlin critic is now suspected of involvement in the death of his associate Sergei Magnitsky in a Moscow jail in 2009.

In a tweet, Browder dismissed the new accusations as "Kafkaesque," saying they come one day before "the Dutch government will be inviting all EU member states to The Hague to propose an EU wide Magnitsky Act."

Magnitsky was arrested after exposing a scheme in which officials allegedly defrauded the Russian state of $230 million. Since his death, Browder has campaigned for laws in nations worldwide that are designed to punish those responsible for human rights abuses -- including the 2012 U.S. Magnitsky Act.

Blok said there was no EU consensus yet on the Dutch proposal but said he was "optimistic about it."

The minister added that EU foreign ministers could discuss the proposal at their next meeting in Brussels on December 10.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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