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On Monday Brussels and Macedonia start the second round of high-level talks, intended to boost the reform process and complement future accession negotiations.
Photo by: sep.gov.mk
At Monday's meeting in Skopje the European Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele will meet Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski as well as the Vice Prime Minister in charge of European Affairs Teuta Arifi.
The Macedonian team will present an ambitious action plan to the EU representative.
The plan envisages about 150 reforms and legal changes in the five areas that Brussels last time identified as weak points.
It also contains a self-imposed deadline of September for Macedonian institutions to implement it.
“The action plan follows Brussels' instructions in the five areas”, Arifi told Balkan Insight, adding that the plan was “realistic” and “achievable”.
At the first meeting between Fuele and Macedonian leaders in March, the first topics up for discussion were strengthening the rule of law and freedom of speech.
Brussels also pointed out the need for reforms in the public administration, in election legislation and in the market economy.
Arifi says that all these areas have been addressed in the action plan with concrete proposals.
EU officials have stressed that the Brussels-Skopje dialogue is not intended to bypass Greece's blockade of the country’s EU membership talks.
The idea is to keep the momentum for reform going until the diplomatic problem with Greece is solved.
Macedonia gained EU candidate country status back in 2005, and for three years in a row since 2009 the European Commission has recommended a start to accession talks.
But the EU has not offered an actual start date for the talks owing to the Greek blockade, related to Macedonia’s name.
Greece insists that Macedonia’s name implies territorial claims to its own northern province, also called Macedonia. Both countries are engaged in long-standing talks in the UN to resolve the issue but these have not led to a breakthrough.
Macedonia hopes that at the forthcoming May summit in Chicago NATO will shift its position on the country's stalled membership.
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