In the Recommendations of the Senior Experts' Group on systemic Rule of Law issues relating to the communications interception (commonly known as the Priebe report), the first issue discussed is the surveillance of communications.
The report found that:
"Acting on the basis of Articles 175 and 176 of the Law on Electronic Communication, each of the three national telecommunications providers equips the UBK with the necessary technical apparatus, enabling it to mirror directly their entire operational centres. As a consequence, from a practical point of view, the UBK can intercept communications directly, autonomously and unimpeded, regardless of whether a court order has or has not been issued in accordance with the Law on Interception of Communications.". (Emphasis mine.)
Then it recommended that:
"The UBK should have no direct access to the technical equipment allowing mirroring of the communication signal. The proprietary switches should be moved to the premises of the telecommunication providers. The providers should activate and divert signals to the competent law enforcement agencies (Police, Customs Administration and Financial Police) or the security agencies (the Security and Counterintelligence Service (UBK), the Intelligence Agency, and the Ministry of Defence's military security and intelligence service) only upon receipt of the relevant court order, and only for the purposes of lawful interceptions. Under no circumstances should the UBK have the practical capability to capture communications directly." (Emphasis mine.)
Nevertheless, amendments to the Law on electronic communications are not included* in proposed Government program by Zoran Zaev published on 10.03.2017. (*The document is unsearchable, so this claim is based on reading the parts that refer to human rights.)
This outcome in the proposed Government program is in contradiction to the statements made by Mr. Zaev that the "Priebe" reforms will be a priority for the new administration. For example:
- 02.02.2017: Meeting between Zaev and [OSCE's ambassador]: Priebe reforms are our priority (link in Macedonian);
- 27.12.2016: Meeting between Zaev and [Sweden's ambassador] Staffansson: The new government must work on Priebe reforms (link in Macedonian);
- 26.12.2016: Meeting between Zaev and [Spain's ambassador] Carranza: Reforms in line with Priebe and European Commission reports in order to open the democratic process (link in Macedonian);
- 09.12.2016: Zaev promises radical implementation of Priebe's recommendations(link in Macedonian).
The proposed program promises to open a debate for a broader support to amend the Law on interception of communications. Although amending this law is needed and in line with "Priebe", amending it, according to established practice, requires 2/3 majority vote in Parliament. Given the current distribution of parties and MPs a 2/3 vote seems impossible, so it looks reasonable for the Zaev administration to seek broader support, without a straighforward promise that the Law on interception of communications will be amended.
However, to amend the Law on electronic communications such majority is not needed. For example the amendments from June 2010 were passed with 65 MPs voding of which 55 voted yes, 1 abstained, and 9 voted against. The Macedonian parliament has 120 MPs. So, unless I'm terribly misreading the poorly published document, the amendments to end UBK's capability to capture communications directly are not part of the proposed government program.
More on the topic (though not all of it is in English):