The ex-prime minister of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has submitted an asylum request in Hungary asking for refugee status, Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s office said on Wednesday.
Nikola Gruevski fled to Hungary this week, six months after he was sentenced to two years in prison on corruption-related charges, according to FYROM’s Interior Ministry.
A message on Gruevski's Facebook page said he is in Budapest, seeking political asylum.
FYROM police issued an arrest warrant on Monday for Gruevski, who resigned two years ago after a decade in power. He was expected to start a term in prison for corruption from last Friday, but did not surrender himself.
Orban’s office said the Immigration and Asylum Office would "conduct the asylum assessment procedure in accordance with both Hungarian and international law."
It said FYROM was a significant ally and Hungary and considered Gruevski’s asylum request “to be solely a legal issue.”
Orban had backed Gruevski in the run-up to FYROM’s elections last year and hailed his party’s efforts to prevent migrants travelling through to Western Europe from the Balkans.
Gruevski’s party and Orban’s right-wing Fidesz are part of the European People’s party, the centre-right conservative grouping in the European Parliament.
Last month, FYROM’s parliament passed a proposal to alter the country’s name, bringing a decades-old dispute with Greece one step closer to resolution, this could unblock its bid to join NATO.
Gruevski had opposed any name change.
According to the website of the immigration office, Hungarian officials have 60 days to decide on an asylum application but there is an option for a fast-tracked processing.