Saturday, July 08, 2006

EU Praises Conduct Of Macedonia Elections

BRUSSELS (AP)--The European Union welcomed the overall smooth running of Macedonia's parliamentary elections Thursday, and urged the winning political parties to form a government quickly to push through reforms needed for the country to start EU entry talks.

EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said he welcomed a report from international monitors saying the elections generally met international standards. However, he called for an investigation into "incidents" during campaigning in some parts of the country.

The tense campaign was marred by violence - including shoot-outs and a grenade attack - between supporters of rival ethnic Albanian parties that left at least three people wounded.

"These incidents must be fully investigated and the perpetrators punished," Rehn said in a statement. "It is now important that a new government is formed quickly so that the country can step up its efforts on the reform agenda to meet the criteria" for EU membership.

Macedonia's nationalist opposition has won the most votes in parliamentary elections, according to early results, but will likely be forced into a coalition with an ethnic Albanian party to govern the ethnically divided country, which was officially made a candidate by the EU in December. Final results were to be released Friday.

The commission said it was "fully committed" to backing reforms designed to ready Macedonia for membership negotiations. The EU hasn't yet set a date for starting the talks.

"We will actively support a reform oriented government," Rehn said. "Substantial EU financial assistance is available to contribute to the efforts of the new government to address the most urgent reforms."

Rehn said the most critical of those reforms included changes to the way the police is run and strengthening administration in the Balkan nation.

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