Dilemmas about the process of European integration in FYROM

Dilemmas about the process of European integration in FYROM

IBNA Special Report

Skopje, July 23, 2014/Independent Balkan News Agency

By Naser Pajaziti

Support for the accession of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in the European Union has increasingly fallen in the country. The latest survey shows that in the past six years, support for accession has fallen by 26%. Nevertheless, there’s a dominating majority that desires and believes in the integration of the country in the big European family.

The country aspires to be part of the EU and this is also the aspiration of the government, all political parties and civil society.

But, the recent data are worrying. Based on a study of the public opinion carried out by the Macedonian Center for European Education, if in 2007, over 80% of the citizens believed accession is a good thing, a study carried out in 2013 showed that only 50% of respondents said that accession in the EU is a good thing and. There’s also an increasing number of people who have dilemmas as to how positive would EU accession be. This study has been conducted in the framework of the Euro-Barometer European project.

Ivan Damjanovski, professor of the law faculty in Skopje says that from 2009, there’s been a drop in the support for European integration process. “In the recent years, we’ve had negative trends, while in 2006, there was progress in the European integration process. This was the case until 2010, when the country was recommended to launch negotiations for accession. But, the blocking of the European integration process due to the name dispute has led to a drastic drop in support by the citizens”, says Damjanovski.

But this issue has once again triggered debates in the country, where political parties have made this a priority of their agenda. Latest protests in the country, political crisis due to the boycott of the Macedonian opposition, concerns about the violation of the freedom of media have raised concerns that the country may be heading toward a dangerous path. Macedonian opposition has warned in the Autumn report of the European Commission, the country may risk to lose the EU membership candidate status. Meanwhile, the government through prime minister Gruevski has accused the opposition of damaging the strategic interests of the country.

Political analyst Mersel Bilali told IBNA that the next report of the European Commission on FYROM will be a negative one, because there is a political crisis, lack of political dialogue between majority and opposition and aggravation of cross ethnic relations following the latest protests. “Based on the latest developments, I would say that the biggest optimist could not expect a positive assessment from Brussels. I expect a negative report filled with criticism about the government. I believe that there may even be a proposal and recommendation for the membership candidate status to be lifted to the country”, said Bilali.

Analyst Saco Ordanovski says that current politicians in power and EU approach toward FYROM are to be blamed about the growing Euro skepticism.

“The European  Union is also to be blamed about the state of the country, but the most of the responsibility falls on the current government, which has been in power for several years and has put the European integration process in a deadlock. This situation must be solved and a solution must be found against this dangerous status quo”, says Ordanovski.

But, western European diplomats are optimistic. Italian ambassador to Skopje, Ernesto Beleli says that EU enlargement will be one of the three priorities of the Italian chairmanship of the Union. “Italian chairmanship will work to encourage the process of accession of aspiring countries to the EU. This priority also relates to western Balkan countries and Macedonia as part of this region”, said Beleli, stressing that the country must meet the necessary reforms for accession.

Fatmir Besimi, deputy prime minister for European Integration is also optimistic. “The government is working to meet the objectives for the process of accession. Our engagement and faith in the European future implies the need to carry out the required reforms in the entire institutional, legal and political spectrum, but also the objectives that relate to good neighboring and cross ethnic relations”, says deputy prime minister Besimi.

In contrast to this institutional optimism, citizens believe that there’s no progress and that the country is putting European integration in danger. Blerand Saliu, who follows European integration studies at the Southeastern European University in Tetovo told IBNA that the government is blocking this process, by using the name dispute as an alibi.

“It’s in the best interest of the citizens and the progress of the country to find a solution about the name dispute and for the country to move forward. Otherwise, we will see constant crises with political tension, ethnic related tension and massive departures of young people from the country”, says Blerand Saliu.

Debates on the process of European integration will intensify in Autumn, when the country will see Brussels’ assessment on the European integration process. /ibna/