Balkan Nation Urges Hungary to Extradite Ex-PM Seeking Asylum

(Bloomberg) -- The prime minister of the Republic of Macedonia urged Hungary to extradite his predecessor who fled to Budapest to avoid a two-year jail sentence at home.

Premier Zoran Zaev, who has accused predecessor Nikola Gruevski of deliberately fueling a diplomatic rift with Greece that worsened relations with the European Union, called on Hungary to “respect international law and prove their friendship” by extraditing him.

While Hungarian Premier Viktor Orban has been one of the bloc’s staunches opponent of taking in refugees, his administration has allowed Gruevski to seek asylum in Budapest. Hungarian officials haven’t offered the full story on how Gruevski got there from the ex-Yugoslav republic.

“One thing is clear - a Hungarian diplomatic car was used” to get him there, Zaev told reporters in Skopje on Friday. “Hungary is our friend. We have aspirations to join the EU and NATO and we’ll be very careful not to threaten our friendship with countries that support us, but our citizens need to know.”

Police in Albania, which neighbors the Republic of Macedonia, said late Thursday that Gruevski left their nation for Montenegro in a car owned by the Hungarian embassy in Tirana a day before authorities in Skopje issued an international arrest warrant against him.

Speaking in Prague on Friday, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto repeated his government’s stance that Gruevski’s asylum request was “a legal issue, not a political one.”

“Our authority responsible for immigration has already launched a procedure based on the asylum request,” he said.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.