EU — Seventh meeting with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

Sev­enth meet­ing of the Sta­bil­i­sa­tion and Asso­ci­a­tion Coun­cil between the for­mer Yugoslav Repub­lic of Mace­do­nia and the EU

Brus­sels, 27 July 2010 — JOINT PRESS RELEASE
The Sta­bil­i­sa­tion and Asso­ci­a­tion Coun­cil between the for­mer Yugoslav Repub­lic of Mace­do­nia and the EU (SA Coun­cil) held its sev­enth meet­ing on 27 July 2010. The meet­ing was chaired by Steven Vanackere, Bel­gian Min­is­ter of For­eign Affairs, on behalf of the High Rep­re­sen­ta­tive, in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Com­mis­sion­er Ste­fan Füle. The for­mer Yugoslav Repub­lic of Mace­do­nia del­e­ga­tion was head­ed by Anto­nio Milosos­ki, Min­is­ter of For­eign Affairs of the for­mer Yugoslav Repub­lic of Mace­do­nia. Deputy Prime Min­is­ter Vasko Nau­movs­ki as well as State Sec­re­tary Ilham Ismani also attend­ed the meet­ing. Also, EU Spe­cial Rep­re­sen­ta­tive and Head of the Del­e­ga­tion of the EU to the for­mer Yugoslav Repub­lic of Mace­do­nia, Erwan Fouéré, attended.

The SA Coun­cil not­ed that the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion in its 2009 Enlarge­ment Pack­age rec­om­mend­ed open­ing of acces­sion nego­ti­a­tions based of the assess­ment that the coun­try had sub­stan­tial­ly addressed the key pri­or­i­ties of the Acces­sion Part­ner­ship and suf­fi­cient­ly met the polit­i­cal cri­te­ria for EU mem­ber­ship. In this regard, the SA Coun­cil not­ed the con­clu­sions of the Coun­cil of the Euro­pean Union adopt­ed on 7–8 Decem­ber 2009. The SA Coun­cil was informed that, in line with those con­clu­sions, the devel­op­ment regard­ing the coun­try was also raised at the Coun­cil of the EU held on 14 June 2010.

The SA Coun­cil not­ed the country’s pri­ma­ry objec­tive and strong com­mit­ment to open acces­sion nego­ti­a­tions as soon as pos­si­ble. It was also informed of the Government’s ded­i­ca­tion to fur­ther effec­tive imple­men­ta­tion of reforms, par­tic­u­lar­ly in the judi­cia­ry, pub­lic admin­is­tra­tion, fight against cor­rup­tion, eco­nom­ic reforms, to advance the degree of appli­ca­tion of EU acces­sion cri­te­ria and stan­dards in the country. 

The EU not­ed that the short-stay visa oblig­a­tions was waived in Decem­ber 2009 for bio­met­ric pass­port hold­ers. In the visa lib­er­al­i­sa­tion process the coun­try also demon­strat­ed clear capac­i­ty to imple­ment the reforms in ques­tions. The con­tin­u­ous efforts of the nation­al author­i­ties to inform the cit­i­zens about the rights and oblig­a­tions stem­ming from short term visa-free trav­el were welcomed.

The SA Coun­cil reviewed key devel­op­ments over the pre­vi­ous year relat­ed to the ful­fil­ment of the polit­i­cal cri­te­ria. It not­ed the efforts made to imple­ment the Law on Par­lia­ment, adopt­ed last year, as regards the Parliament’s role. The EU not­ed the estab­lish­ment of a par­lia­men­tary Inquiry Com­mit­tee regard­ing the inci­dent in Par­lia­ment in 1 July. In this con­text, the SA Coun­cil not­ed that the best way to enhance the polit­i­cal cli­mate is to ful­ly imple­ment the Law on Par­lia­ment, to adopt the new Rules of Pro­ce­dure and to resume the for­mal coor­di­na­tion meet­ings between the coor­di­na­tors of polit­i­cal groups. The EU reit­er­at­ed the impor­tance of ensur­ing con­struc­tive dia­logue between polit­i­cal forces to achieve the sus­tain­able imple­men­ta­tion of key reforms and of the Ohrid Frame­work Agree­ment. The SA Coun­cil was informed that main­tain­ing momen­tum in reform efforts remains an essen­tial objec­tive for the Government.

Police reform con­tin­ues to make progress and the ongo­ing imple­men­ta­tion of the new Law on inter­nal affairs is essen­tial to set the basis for a sound human resources man­age­ment sys­tem in the police. The SA Coun­cil took note of con­tin­ued efforts on judi­cial reform, includ­ing the fore­seen leg­isla­tive changes aimed at fur­ther strength­en­ing the auton­o­my, inde­pen­dence, effec­tive­ness and pro­fes­sion­al­ism of the judi­cia­ry. In this regard the EU point­ed to the utmost impor­tance of ensur­ing the inde­pen­dence and impar­tial­i­ty of judges and pros­e­cu­tors. Addi­tion­al mea­sures in the fight against cor­rup­tion were dis­cussed, which aim to fur­ther rein­force the legal frame­work, strength­en inter-agency coop­er­a­tion and build a track record of enforce­ment. In the con­duct of the fight against cor­rup­tion, polit­i­cal impar­tial­i­ty is essen­tial. The EU not­ed that legal pro­vi­sions need to be imple­ment­ed in prac­tice, eg. as regards the financ­ing of polit­i­cal par­ties and the check­ing of dec­la­ra­tions of assets and pos­si­ble con­flicts of inter­est of politi­cians and offi­cials. Con­cern­ing the pub­lic admin­is­tra­tion reform, the SA Coun­cil not­ed the impor­tance of the strength­ened leg­isla­tive frame­work and encour­aged con­tin­u­ous efforts to ensure fur­ther trans­paren­cy, pro­fes­sion­al­ism and inde­pen­dence of pub­lic admin­is­tra­tion. It wel­comed the estab­lish­ment of a spe­cial group on the pub­lic admin­is­tra­tion reform under the SAA.

The SA Coun­cil under­scored that the Ohrid Frame­work Agree­ment (OFA) remains a key part of the polit­i­cal cri­te­ria and an essen­tial ele­ment of democ­ra­cy and the rule of law as enshrined in the country’s con­sti­tu­tion­al and legal order and it must be ful­ly imple­ment­ed. The SA Coun­cil took note of the Government’s com­mit­ment to con­tin­u­ous­ly ensure effec­tive enforce­ment of OFA, notably con­cern­ing equi­table rep­re­sen­ta­tion, use of lan­guages, decen­tral­iza­tion and eth­nic com­mu­ni­ties’ inte­gra­tion through edu­ca­tion. The progress in imple­ment­ing the strat­e­gy for equi­table rep­re­sen­ta­tion of eth­nic com­mu­ni­ties in the pub­lic sec­tor was wel­comed, in par­tic­u­lar as regards the Alban­ian com­mu­ni­ty, while cer­tain oth­er eth­nic com­mu­ni­ties are still under-rep­re­sent­ed. The EU is con­cerned by state­ments by some polit­i­cal lead­ers that point in the direc­tion of aban­don­ment of OFA. Any vio­lence or threats of vio­lence are unac­cept­able and incom­pat­i­ble with the val­ues of the Euro­pean Union. The EU encour­ages all cit­i­zens, and their rep­re­sen­ta­tives, to utilise exist­ing demo­c­ra­t­ic mech­a­nisms, includ­ing the Par­lia­ment, to advance their interests. 

The SA Coun­cil agreed that media could have an impor­tant role in pro­mot­ing tol­er­ance and bet­ter understanding.

The EU recalled that region­al co-oper­a­tion and good neigh­bourly rela­tions form an essen­tial part of the process of mov­ing towards the EU.

The SA Coun­cil not­ed the mea­sures relat­ed to the ful­fil­ment of the eco­nom­ic cri­te­ria and the func­tion­ing of the mar­ket econ­o­my. The EU wel­comed the fact that the for­mer Yugoslav Repub­lic of Mace­do­nia has con­tin­ued to move clos­er to becom­ing a func­tion­ing mar­ket econ­o­my. Pri­vati­sa­tion is large­ly com­plet­ed, and price and trade lib­er­al­i­sa­tion have been large­ly accom­plished. The EU recog­nised the country’s appro­pri­ate macro­eco­nom­ic pol­i­cy mix in the con­text of the glob­al cri­sis, It also not­ed the impor­tance of using avail­able resources, in the present eco­nom­ic cir­cum­stances, in the most effi­cient way focus­ing pub­lic spend­ing on pur­pos­es with a high val­ue added such as invest­ment in pro­duc­tive capac­i­ty. In the area of sta­tis­tics, the Pop­u­la­tion Cen­sus sched­uled for 2011 is par­tic­u­lar­ly important.

Con­cern­ing the new Instru­ment for Pre-Acces­sion Assis­tance (IPA) the 2009–2011 Mul­ti- Annu­al Indica­tive Plan­ning Doc­u­ment (MIPD) for the for­mer Yugoslav Repub­lic of Mace­do­nia was adopt­ed on 29 June 2009. For the peri­od 2008–2010, the nation­al pro­gramme allo­cat­ed € 244.3 mil­lion to assist the coun­try on its road to Euro­pean inte­gra­tion. In addi­tion, the coun­try con­tin­ues to ben­e­fit from region­al and hor­i­zon­tal pro­grammes. Progress was achieved in the insti­tu­tion­al prepa­ra­tions for decen­tralised imple­men­ta­tion of IPA which led to the con­fer­ral of man­age­ment pow­er deci­sions for three IPA com­po­nents, while for the remain­ing two com­po­nents prepa­ra­tions are on-going.

The SA Coun­cil not­ed a high lev­el of com­pli­ance under the Sta­bil­i­sa­tion and Asso­ci­a­tion Agree­ment. It recalled the Commission’s pro­pos­al on the tran­si­tion to the sec­ond stage of the Sta­bil­i­sa­tion and Asso­ci­a­tion Agree­ment, which is now under con­sid­er­a­tion by the Council’s prepara­to­ry bodies.

As regards align­ment with the acquis, progress was not­ed in the legal har­mo­niza­tion and in the admin­is­tra­tive capac­i­ty build­ing in a num­ber of areas. The SA Coun­cil wel­comed the country’s pro­gres­sive par­tic­i­pa­tion in the Com­mu­ni­ty Pro­grams, not­ing that it also ini­ti­at­ed the pro­ce­dure for par­tic­i­pa­tion as observ­er in the EU Fun­da­men­tal Rights Agency. It also wel­comed the Nation­al Pro­gramme for the Adop­tion of the Acquis (NPAA) – Revi­sion 2010 and the prac­tice by the author­i­ties to annu­al­ly update the NPAA on the basis of the Commission’s Progress Report.

The EU wel­comed the country’s con­tin­ued active par­tic­i­pa­tion and the con­struc­tive approach in region­al coop­er­a­tion includ­ing in ini­tia­tives in South East­ern Europe, such as the South East Euro­pean Coop­er­a­tion Process, the Region­al Coop­er­a­tion Coun­cil and the con­tri­bu­tion to the EU ALTHEA mis­sion in Bosnia and Herze­gov­ina. The SA Coun­cil also took note of the com­ple­tion of the demar­ca­tion of the country’s bor­der with Koso­vo, thus mak­ing it the first coun­try of the for­mer Yugoslavia to have achieved this with all its neighbours. 

Coun­cil of the Euro­pean Union 

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