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News 10 Oct 12

Macedonia Expects Another Green Light From Brussels

Macedonia expects a fourth recommendation for a start to EU membership talks in what is anticipated will be a generally positive European Commission progress report.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Skopje
Macedonian government building | Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic

Macedonia's Vice-Prime Minister in charge of European Affairs, Teuta Arifi, says that the latest European report, out this week, “will be positive regarding the recommendation” [for a start to EU accession talks] but “will reflect Macedonia’s reality”.

The European Enlargement Commissioner, Stefan Fule, will first present the report in Brussels. The EU ambassador to Macedonia, Aivo Orav, will then present the document in Skopje.

“A qualitative difference this year is that the report follows a very intensive process that we had with the EU - the high-level dialogue” Arifi said, adding that the results “will have an additional positive influence on the report”.

  Fuele Urges Accession Talks before Name Solution
 

EU's enlargement commissioner Stefan Fule told reporters in Brussels that the EU needs to show that the European perspective for the country is real.

"We strongly believe in moving the accession process to the next stage to keep the pace of reforms; lessen the risk of any reversal in the process; and strengthen inter-ethnic relations”.

 He said that decision of the European Council to open accession negotiations would help create the conditions for finding a solution for the name dispute with Greece.

 "On its side, the Commission is ready to present a negotiating framework which takes the need to solve the name issue into account at an early stage of the accession process."

 



In March, Brussels and Macedonia started high-level talks intended to boost the reform process and complement future accession negotiations. The idea was to keep the momentum for reform going until the longstanding “name” dispute with Greece is resolved.

Leaks from the report presented by the Macedonian media this week suggest that Brussels will praise progress and reforms in several key areas such as rule of law, freedom of speech, reforms to the civil service, election legislation and the market economy.

The Commission is also expected to praise the government for its “mature handling” of ethnic tensions that erupted in the first half of the year.

It will also note the current friction between the government partners, the VMRO DPMNE party of Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and the ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integration, DUI over a controversial army law.

According to reports, Brussels will encourage the government to maintain its dialogue with journalists on freedom of speech issues, while praising a recent agreement on the decriminalization of libel.

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 Europe has not offered an actual start date for the talks owing to the Greek blockade, related to the dispute over Macedonia’s name.

Arifi said that she hoped that the country’s reforms will “help the EU have a good, clear case” and stop further delays to the decision on the date.

A decision on the issue is expected at the next European Council of Ministers in December, where Greece again has the power to veto such a move.

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.

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