SKOPJE The European Union's enlargement commissioner, Johannes Hahn, on Thursday urged Macedonia's political parties to reach a swift agreement on the formation of a new government and put an end to the Balkan country's long-running political crisis.
The turmoil, which was triggered by a surveillance scandal in 2015, has threatened to destabilise a country that hopes to join NATO and is among several candidates to join the EU.
Neither the conservative VMRO-DPMNE party nor the Social Democrats (SDSM) emerged from a December election with a big enough majority to form a government without the support of ethnic Albanians.
In late January, coalition talks between the VMRO-DPMNE, which won the largest share of votes in the election, and the ethnic Albanian DUI party collapsed. The Social Democrats say they should now be given a chance.
"The earlier there is a government in place the better it is," Hahn told reporters in the Macedonian capital, Skopje. "There is no further time to waste."
Hahn said it was "important that the new government is built on a solid basis." The commissioner was due to meet leaders of the main political parties later on Thursday.
The crisis is Macedonia's worst since Western diplomacy hauled the country from the brink of civil war during an ethnic Albanian insurgency in 2001, promising it a path to membership of the EU and NATO.
Both have stalled because of a dispute with neighbouring Greece over Macedonia's name.
In their negotiations with the VMRO-DPMNE, the DUI party sought the recognition of Albanian as Macedonia's second official language.
They also demanded an extension to the mandate of a special prosecutor investigating allegations of government corruption, vote rigging and abuse of power during the VMRO-DPMNE's decade in power between 2006-2016.
Last week the VMRO-DPMNE called for fresh elections.
(Reporting by Kole Casule; Writing by Ivana Sekularac; Editing by Richard Lough)