North Macedonia’s Operational Technical Agency (OTA) is set to go without a leader amid delays in appointing a new security chief for the agency.
The OTA is tasked with overseeing the technical conduct of wiretapping for national security and anti-crime purposes. The mandate of the existing director will soon expire, and the North Macedonian parliament has yet to elect a new security chief.
The outgoing OTA director, Zoran Angelovski, had a five year mandate. He may not be reelected, and warned of the ramifications of such a delay.
“The creation of a legal vacuum in the agency’s management … will undoubtedly have implications and will negatively affect its functioning,” Angelovski told the media.
He also warned of “possible discontinuity in the functioning and undermining the legal capacity of the institution, with all the risks that this carries for the full functioning of the communication monitoring system.”
Angelovski said parliamentary failure to address the situation also threatens to harm the reputation of North Macedonia’s security system.
Coming out of the summer break, parliament voted on Tuesday to issue a public call for candidates for the position of new security chief for the OTA.
The move is unlikely to solve the problem, however, as the notice must be published in the Official Gazette for ten days. The selection process and parliamentary appointment will also take additional time.
The EU delegation has similarly urged North Macedonian authorities to act with urgency. It said the country must “ensure necessary conditions for the continuity” of the OTA.
The OTA was formed by North Macedonia’s parliament following the 2015 mass illegal surveillance scandal. The scandal caused a major political crisis, and led to the ousting of then-Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski in 2017. Gruevski has since fled to Hungary.
The former head of the secret police, and Gruevski’s cousin, Saso Mijalkov, oversaw the illegal wiretapping of thousands of people between 2008 and 2015. He was jailed for the crime in 2021, and is now facing a retrial after a higher-instance court scrapped the initial verdict.
North Macedonia’s secret police was disbanded as a result. The OTA was established in its place, and tasked with holding the technical surveillance equipment, as well as conducting surveillance under court orders. The Agency for National Security (ANB) is not allowed to conduct surveillance on its own, but may access materials collected by the OTA.
These reforms were intended to ensure greater accountability, ensuring the new agencies operate as independent institutions and not under the direct jurisdiction of the Interior Ministry.
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