European Western Balkans

Key findings of the 2015 report on the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

The report on the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is part of the 2015 Enlargement Package adopted by the European Commission today. In the package, the Commission concluded that the accession process of the country is at a critical juncture. In the light of the progress made so far in the implementation of the June/July political agreement, the Commission is prepared to extend its recommendation to open accession negotiations with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. This shall, however, be conditional on the continued implementation of the June/July political agreement and substantial progress in the implementation of the urgent reform priorities. This issue shall be addressed again after the elections.

Political criteria

Serious challenges reported in previous years have been underscored by the country’s most severe political crisis since 2001. Intercepted communications, apparently involving senior government officials, suggest breaches of fundamental rights, interference with judicial independence, media freedom and elections, as well as corruption. The breakdown of political dialogue and difficulties in arriving at consensus on issues highlighted once again the divisive political culture in the country. Concerns about all of these issues had been signalled in previous Progress Reports. The focus should continue to be placed on implementing the Commission’s “Urgent Reform Priorities” and the political agreement in full and in good faith.

The inter-ethnic situation also remains fragile. Events during the year showed the importance of proactive measures to address inter-ethnic issues, building greater trust between communities, including through completion of the review of the Ohrid Framework Agreement.

The country is participating actively in regional cooperation and further developing bilateral relations with its neighbours. The name issue has still not been solved. Maintaining good neighbourly relations, including a negotiated and mutually acceptable solution to the name issue, under the auspices of the UN, remains essential.

Economic criteria

As regards the economic criteria, the country is at a good level of preparation in developing a functioning market economy. The country benefits from a stable macroeconomic environment, supported by sound monetary policy, favourable conditions for market entry, and a sound legal system. However, there was some backsliding in public finance management. The development of overall public debt remains a concern. Unemployment remains high at 28%.The budget should be more geared towards growth and employment, while its overall design, transparency and implementation should be improved.

The economy is moderately prepared to cope with competitive pressures and market forces within the Union. However, the country needs to improve the employability of people, in particular the youth, by better aligning education with labour market needs, upgrade linkages between foreign direct investors and the domestic economy, and better prioritise investment.

EU legislation

As regards its ability to take on the obligations of membership, the country has a relatively good level of alignment with the acquis. More focus is needed on administrative capacity and effective implementation. In most areas, the country is moderately prepared, including in the areas of public procurement, statistics and financial control. Further efforts are needed across the board, in particular in those few areas where the country is at an early stage of preparation, such as freedom of movement for workers and climate change.

Key dates

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

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