BRUSSELS -The Stabilisation and Association Council between the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and the EU (SA Council) held its twelfth meeting on 20 July 2015. The meeting was chaired by Mr. Nikola Poposki, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. From the side of the European Union the meeting was co-chaired by Mr. Lajčák, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic, on behalf of High Representative Federica Mogherini. Commissioner Johannes Hahn represented the European Commission. Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Mr. Fatmir Besimi also participated.
The SA Council took note of the country’s call to open accession negotiations, taking into account the Commission’s recommendations to that effect. It also noted the Council Conclusions of 16 December 2014, 21 April 2015 and 23 June 2015. The SA Council reviewed the key developments over the previous period relating to the fulfilment of the political criteria. The SA Council discussed the prolonged political crisis in the country, as well as the serious and systemic rule of law issues related to the interception of communications. It welcomed the agreement reached by the four main political party leaders on 15 July, with EU facilitation, to end the political crisis and called for it to be swiftly implemented in good faith, including the urgent reform priorities on systemic rule of law issues to which all parties have committed. The SA Council noted the preparation by the government of the draft Action Plan to address the urgent reform priorities in the areas of rule of law and judiciary, public administration, media, electoral reform, inter-ethnic relations and economic governance, as well as implementation of the 24 December Inquiry Committee recommendations and that some actions have already been started by the government notably concerning government public information campaigns, lustration law and public administration statistics. A meeting of the High Level Accession Dialogue in September, including the opposition and civil society, will review results achieved. The SA Council also noted the EU’s call for a thorough and independent investigation of all allegations, including those of potential wrongdoing made public in the wiretaps, with full regard for due process, the principle of the independence of the prosecution and judiciary and the presumption of innocence. The SA Council recalled that regional co-operation and good neighbourly relations remain essential. The SA Council welcomed the country’s continued active participation in regional cooperation, as well as its chairmanship of the Central European Initiative. The SA Council also noted the migratory pressures the country and the region is facing, efforts which have been made to date and the planned high level conference to be held in the coming months, as outlined in the European Council Conclusions of 25-26 June 2015. Regarding economic developments, the SA Council noted that the country’s economy displayed buoyant growth last year, overall macro-financial stability was maintained and the inflation environment stayed benign. It welcomed the Economic Reform Programme (ERP) covering the period 2015-2017 and encouraged the government to implement follow up actions based on the country-specific recommendations from the Economic and Financial Dialogue held in May 2015. It noted and encouraged ongoing work on public finance management. The SA Council welcomed progress on programming future EU assistance and efforts to address shortcomings in absorption of EU funds and to improve the capacity of institutions involved in their implementation. The SA Council also noted the good progress achieved in various areas covered by the Stabilisation and Association Agreement. It welcomed the high level of trade integration and the accession to the EU Common Transit Convention. The SA Council recalled the Commission’s proposal of October 2009 on the transition to the second stage of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement. It confirmed that the decision on the proposal remains with the Council of the EU.