The Progress Report on the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is part of the 2013 Enlargement Package adopted by the European Commission on 16 October. The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia was the first country to sign a Stabilisation and Association Agreement with the EU and has been a candidate country since 2005. In the package the Commission concluded that the country continues to sufficiently fulfil the political criteria for EU membership and recommended, for the fifth consecutive year, that negotiations should be opened.
The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia continues to sufficiently fulfil the political criteria for membership of the EU. The High Level Accession Dialogue with the Commission continues to serve as a driver for reforms and has contributed to progress in a number of key areas.
During the year, a political crisis provoked by events in December 2012 exposed deep divisions among political parties, affected the functioning of Parliament and demonstrated the need for more inclusive and constructive politics. A political agreement reached on 1 March resulted in the Report of the Committee of Inquiry on the events of December 2012. These showed how constructive solutions can be found, with political will, through dialogue and compromise. The recommendations now need to be fully implemented in practice. As regards the political criteria, the country has already reached a high level of alignment, relative to where it is in the EU accession process. The Commission recommends that the priority for the coming year should be the effective implementation and enforcement of existing legal and policy frameworks. There should be a particular focus on the independence and competence of the courts, freedom of expression and relations with the media, electoral reforms, a concrete corruption track record and the implementation of the recommendations of the review of the Ohrid Framework Agreement.
A constructive approach to relations with neighbouring EU Member States remains important and, 20 years after the country’s entry into the United Nations, a solution to the ‘name issue’, under UN auspices, should be found.
In 2012, the economic situation deteriorated mildly against the background of a challenging external economic environment. The country remains well advanced and, in some areas, has made further progress towards becoming a functioning market economy. The country should be able to cope with competitive pressures and market forces within the Union in the medium term, provided that it vigorously implements its reform programme in order to reduce significant structural weaknesses.
Some measures were taken to decrease unemployment but structural measures are needed to address the underlying reasons. Fiscal policy needs to be aligned with the country’s structural reform priorities. A medium-term fiscal framework, multi-annual budgeting and strategic planning, as well as effective public financial management are required. The business environment is still affected by corruption.
The country has achieved a high level of alignment with the EU regarding legislation, policies and administrative capacity considering where it is in the accession process. The focus is now on administrative capacity and coordination mechanisms, within the national administration, to ensure effective implementation. Further efforts are needed in areas such as regional policy, environment and climate change, social policy and employment, and financial control.
Overall, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has achieved a good level of alignment with the acquis, enough to move to the next stage of the accession process. It has also continued to smoothly implement its obligations under the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA), on which the Commission has recommended, since 2009, to move to the second stage of the association.
1999: The EU proposes the new Stabilisation and Association Process for countries of Southeast Europe
June 2000: The European Council states that all Stabilisation and Association Process countries are potential candidates for EU membership
April 2001: Signature of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement, the first in the region
June 2003: Thessaloniki Summit: EU perspective for the Western Balkans is confirmed
March 2004: The country applies for EU membership
April 2004: The SAA enters into force
December 2005: The status of candidate country is granted
October 2009: The Commission recommends the opening of accession negotiations
December 2009: Visa-free travel to the Schengen area for citizens of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
March 2012: High Level Accession Dialogue with the Commission launched
April 2013: Ad hoc Commission Report on good neighbourly relations and the implementation of EU-related reforms