European Western Balkans

European Parliament resolution on the 2016 Commission Report on Macedonia

The European Parliament adopted the resolution on June 14, 2017 on the 2016 Commission Report on Macedonia.

The European Parliament,

– having regard to the Presidency conclusions of the Thessaloniki European Council of
19-20 June 2003 concerning the prospect of the Western Balkan countries joining the

– having regard to the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) between the
European Communities and their Member States, of the one part, and the former
Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, of the other part1,

– having regard to the Framework Agreement concluded at Ohrid and signed at Skopje on 13 August 2001 (Ohrid Framework Agreement, ‘the OFA’),

– having regard to the European Council’s decision of 16 December 2005 to grant the
country the status of candidate for EU membership, to the European Council
conclusions of June 2008, to the Council conclusions of December 2008, December
2012, December 2014 and December 2015, and to the Presidency conclusions of 13
December 2016, which received the support of the overwhelming majority of
delegations and which reiterated unequivocal and strong commitment to the country’s
EU accession process,

– having regard to the 13th meeting of the Stabilisation and Association Committee
between the country and the Commission, held in Skopje on 15 June 2016,

– having regard to the Commission communication of 9 November 2016 entitled ‘EU
Enlargement Policy’ (COM(2016)0715), accompanied by the Commission staff
working document entitled ‘The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia 2016 Report’

– having regard to the June 2016 European Court of Auditors Special Report on theformer Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia,

– having regard to the Commission’s June 2015 Urgent Reform Priorities for the former
Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia,

– having regard to the Recommendations of the Senior Experts’ Group on Systematic
Rule of Law issues relating to the communications interception revealed in Spring 2015,

– having regard to the political agreement (the so-called ‘Pržino Agreement’) reached
between the four main political parties in Skopje on 2 June and 15 July 2015, and the
four-party agreement on its implementation of 20 July and 31 August 2016,

– having regard to the Final Declaration by the Chair of the Paris Western Balkans
Summit of 4 July 2016 as well as the Recommendations of the Civil Society
Organisations for the Paris Summit 2016,

– having regard to the preliminary findings and conclusions and the final report of the
OSCE/ODIHR concerning the early parliamentary elections of 11 December 2016,

– having regard to UN Security Council resolutions 817 (1993) and 845 (1993), as well as
to UN General Assembly resolution 47/225 and the Interim Accord of 13 September

– having regard to the judgment of the International Court of Justice on the Application of the Interim Accord of 13 September 1995,

– having regard to its previous resolutions on the country,

– having regard to Rule 52 of its Rules of Procedure,

– having regard to the report of the Committee on Foreign Affairs (A8-0055/2017),

A. whereas, after twice being postponed, early parliamentary elections in the former
Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia were held on 11 December 2016 in an ordinary and
calm atmosphere, in accordance with international standards and in line with
OSCE/ODIHR recommendations; whereas they proceeded without major incidents,
were generally well-administered and the voter turnout was high;

B. whereas reforms and accession preparations are being hampered by political
polarisation, deep mutual mistrust and a lack of a genuine dialogue between the parties;
whereas backsliding in some important areas can be continuously observed; whereas
democracy and the rule of law have been constantly challenged, particularly as the
result of state capture affecting the functioning of democratic institutions and key areas
of society;

C. whereas, on 27 April 2017, Talat Xhaferi was elected as new Speaker of the
Macedonian Parliament; whereas, on 17 May 2017, the President of the Republic of
Macedonia entrusted the mandate to form a new government to SDSM leader Zoran
Zaev; whereas, on 31 May 2017, the new government led by Prime Minister Zoran Zaev was voted in by the Macedonian Parliament;

D. whereas some of the key issues in the reform process include reform of the judiciary,
public administration and media, youth unemployment and a review of the implementation of the OFA;

E. whereas a serious commitment by all political forces is required for the country to
continue to pursue its EU integration and Euro-Atlantic path; whereas a new
government needs to adopt and fully implement robust reforms marked by tangible
results, particularly as regards the areas of the rule of law, justice, corruption,
fundamental rights, home affairs and good neighbourly relations;

F. whereas there is common understanding between the Commission, the Council and the Parliament that the maintenance of the positive recommendation to open accession
negotiations with the country remains dependent/conditional on progress in the
implementation of the Pržino Agreement and substantial progress in the implementation
of the Urgent Reform Priorities;

G. whereas the Council has been blocking progress due to the unresolved name issue with Greece; whereas bilateral issues should not be used as a pretext to obstruct the swift
start of negotiations with the EU;

H. whereas bilateral disputes should not be used to obstruct the EU accession process, nor the opening of accession negotiations, but should be duly addressed in a constructive
spirit and in compliance with EU and UN standards; whereas all efforts should be
pursued to maintain good neighbourly and inter-ethnic relations;

I. whereas (potential) candidate countries are judged on their own merits and the speed
and quality of the necessary reforms determine the timetable for accession; whereas the
opening of accession negotiations should be guaranteed upon the fulfilment of required
conditions; whereas the country has been considered for many years as one of the most
advanced EU candidate countries in terms of alignment with the acquis;

J. whereas the EU accession process is a major incentive for further reforms, particularly
with regard to the rule of law, the independence of the judiciary, the fight against
corruption, and media freedom; whereas regional cooperation and good neighbourly
relations are essential elements of the enlargement process, the Stabilisation and
Association Process and the country’s accession process;

K. whereas on 20 July and 31 August 2016 leaders of the four main political parties
reached an agreement on the implementation of the Pržino Agreement, which included
setting 11 December 2016 as the date for early parliamentary elections and declaring
their support for the work of the Special Prosecutor; whereas they also reiterated their
commitment to implement the ‘Urgent Reform Priorities’;

L. whereas the recent political crisis has illustrated the lack of an effective system of
checks and balances in the Macedonian institutions and the need to increase
transparency and public accountability;

M. whereas fighting organised crime and corruption remains fundamental to countering
criminal infiltration of the political, legal and economic systems;

1. Welcomes the formation of a new government on 31 May 2017; urges all political
parties to act in a spirit of reconciliation, in the common interest of all citizens and to
work with the government on restoring confidence in the country and its institutions,
including through the full implementation of the Przino Agreement and Urgent Reform

2. Welcomes the respect for fundamental freedoms shown at the early elections on 11
December 2016, which were well administered, were held in a transparent and inclusive
manner and proceeded without major incidents; notes that the OSCE/ODIHR
considered the elections competitive; welcomes the fact that all political parties
accepted its results in the interest of domestic stability and underlines their
responsibility to ensure that there is no backsliding into political crisis; calls on all
parties to refrain from any obstruction of the effective functioning of the parliament;
urges the new government to swiftly proceed with the necessary reforms, to ensure the
country’s Euro-Atlantic integration and to advance its European perspective for the
benefit of citizens; considers cross-party and inter-ethnic cooperation essential for
addressing pressing domestic and EU-related challenges, and for maintaining the positive recommendation to open EU accession negotiations;

3. Welcomes the improvements in the electoral process, including the legal framework,
voters’ list and media coverage; welcomes the fact that civil society representatives
observed the elections in a large majority of the polling stations; calls on the competent
authorities to effectively address the alleged irregularities and shortcomings, including
voter intimidation, vote buying, misuse of administrative resources, political pressure on
the media, as well as confrontational language and verbal attacks on journalists, also in
view of the local elections in May 2017; urges the competent authorities to address the
recommendations made by the OSCE/ODIHR and the Venice Commission and to
establish a credible track record of effective scrutiny of political party and electoral
campaign financing; stresses the need for greater transparency and further depoliticisation of the work of the electoral administration in order to increase the public’s trust in future elections;

4. Considers it important to conduct a population census (the last census was conducted in 2002), provided that there is a country-wide consensus on the methodology to be
applied, in order to obtain an updated and realistic picture of the demographics of the
Macedonian population, to better meet the needs of – and offer services to –
Macedonian citizens, and to further update the voters’ list and minimise any
irregularities and shortcomings in the future;

5. Expects the new government, as a first priority, in cooperation with other parties, to
accelerate EU-related reforms; reiterates its support for the opening of accession
negotiations, conditional on the progress of the implementation of the Pržino
Agreement to ensure its full, tangible and sustainable implementation and substantial
progress in the implementation of the Urgent Reform Priorities on systemic reforms;
calls on the Council to address the issue of the accession negotiations at its earliest
convenience; continues to be convinced that negotiations can generate much-needed
reforms, create a new dynamic, revitalise the European perspective and positively
influence the resolution of bilateral disputes so as not to hamper the EU accession

6. Underlines the strategic importance of further progress in the EU accession process and calls again for political will and ownership to be displayed by all the parties in fully
implementing the Urgent Reform Priorities and the Pržino agreement; underlines that
implementation of the Pržino agreement is vital also beyond the elections to ensure
political stability and sustainability in the future; calls on the Commission to assess, at
its earliest convenience but before the end of 2017, the country’s progress on
implementation and to report back to Parliament and to the Council; while recalling that
long overdue reforms need to be launched and implemented, supports the continuation
of the High Level Accession Dialogue (HLAD) for systematically assisting the country
in this endeavour; regrets that no meeting was held under HLAD and that there was
little progress on meeting previous targets; draws attention to the potential negative
political, security and socio-economic consequences of further delays in the country’s
Euro-Atlantic integration process; further calls on the Commission and the EEAS to
increase the visibility of EU-funded projects in the country in order to bring the EU
closer to the citizens of the country;

7. Underlines the significant progress the country has made in the process of EU
integration and emphasises the negative consequences of further delaying the process of
integration, including the threat to the credibility of the EU’s enlargement policy and
the risk of instability in the region;

8. Points out that the current challenges facing the European Union (Brexit, migration,
radicalism, etc.) should not hinder the enlargement process, but rather that these
challenges have demonstrated the need to fully integrate the Western Balkans into EU
structures in order to enhance and deepen partnership and overcome international crises;

9. Welcomes the high level of legislative alignment with the acquis communautaire and
acknowledges the priority given to the effective implementation and enforcement of
existing legal and policy frameworks, as in the case of countries already engaged in the
accession negotiations;

10. Congratulates the country for continuing to fulfil its commitments under the SAA; calls on the Council to adopt the Commission’s 2009 proposal to move to the second stage of the SAA, in line with the relevant provisions;

11. Urges all parties to demonstrate the political will and responsibility to overcome the
divisive political environment, polarisation and lack of a culture of compromise and to
re-engage in dialogue; emphasises again the key role of parliament in the democratic
development of the country and as the forum for political dialogue and representation;
calls for its oversight functions to be strengthened and for limits to be placed on the
practice of frequent legislative changes to laws and the use of shortened procedures for
adoption, without sufficient consultation or impact assessment; urges the smooth
operation of the parliamentary committees on the interception of communications and
on security and counterintelligence, and their unhindered access to the necessary data
and testimonies in order to provide credible parliamentary control over relevant
services; acknowledges the constructive role civil society plays in supporting and
improving democratic processes;
12. Notes some progress in reforming public administration including the steps to
implement the new legal framework on human resources management; calls for further
commitment to implement the Commission recommendations; remains concerned about
the politicised public administration and that civil servants are subject to political
pressure; urges the new government to demonstrate a strong political commitment to
enhancing professionalism, merit, neutrality and independence at all levels by
implementing the new merit-based recruitment and appraisal procedure; stresses the
need to complete the 2017-2022 public administration reform strategy, including by
making sufficient budget allocations for its implementation, and to strengthen relevant
administrative capacity; calls for the incoming government to establish transparent and
effective lines of accountability between and within institutions; recommends that all
communities be fairly represented at all levels of the public administration;

13. Recommends that the incoming government develop a comprehensive e-governance
strategy accompanied by the further development of e-services for citizens and
businesses in order to reduce the bureaucratic burden for the state, citizens and business; emphasises that e-governance and e-services would enhance the country’s economic performance and increase the transparency and efficiency of the public administration and services; stresses the right of citizens to access public information and calls for further efforts to ensure that this right is not impeded in any way; encourages the search for innovative e-solutions to ensure easy access to public information and to reduce related bureaucracy;

14. Regrets the continuous backsliding in the reform of the judiciary, which should be
encouraged to function independently; deplores recurrent political interference in its
work, including in the appointment and promotion of judges and prosecutors, as well as
the lack of accountability and cases of selective justice; calls once again on the
competent authorities to address effectively the outstanding issues as identified in the
‘Urgent Reform Priorities’ and to demonstrate the political will to progress in judicial
reform including by improving, in law and in practice, transparency in the appointment
and promotion procedures and by reducing the length of court proceedings;
acknowledges that some efforts have been made to improve transparency; calls,
furthermore, on the authorities to ensure the professionalism of the Judicial Council and
the Prosecutors Council and the functional independence of the justice system as a

15. Reiterates the importance of a thorough and independent investigation, without
hindrance, into allegations of wrong-doing brought to the fore by the wiretaps and the
related failures of oversight; recalls the importance of the mandate and the work of both
the Special Prosecutor and the Parliamentary Committee of Inquiry to look into legal
accountability and political responsibility respectively; notes that the Special Prosecutor
has raised the first criminal indictments concerning wrongdoings arising from the

16. Is concerned about the political attacks against, and the administrative and judicial
obstructions to, the work of the Special Prosecutor’s Office (SPO) and the lack of
cooperation from other institutions; reminds the criminal courts that do not respond to
official requests from the SPO that they have a legal obligation to assist the SPO;
considers it essential for the democratic process that the SPO is able to fulfil all its
functions and to carry out thorough investigations in full autonomy, without
impediment and with the necessary means; calls for the SPO to be given full support
and the conditions and time necessary to complete its important work; calls for an end
to obstructions in the courts for referring evidence to the Special Prosecutor, and for
support for amendments to the law to ensure it has autonomous authority for witness
protection with respect to the cases for which it is responsible; strongly believes that the
outcomes of the investigations constitute an important step towards restoring trust in
national institutions; highlights, furthermore, the need to adopt amendments to the Law
on Witness Protection;

17. Remains concerned that corruption continues to be a serious problem and that
combating corruption is being undermined by political interference; highlights the need
for strong political will to tackle it; stresses the need to strengthen the independence of
the police, the prosecution and the State Commission for the Prevention of Corruption
(SCPC); calls for action to improve transparency and to ensure the merit-based selection
and appointment of SCPC members; calls, as a matter of urgency, for efforts to be made
to ensure the effective prevention and punishment of conflicts of interest and to
establish a credible track record on high-level corruption, including the implementation
of the legal framework for the protection of whistle-blowers in line with European
standards, the Urgent Reform Priorities and the Venice Commission recommendations;
encourages once again independent CSOs and the media to bring to light corruption and
support independent and impartial investigations; calls on the authorities to support the
work of the Ombudsman with adequate staffing and budgetary measures;

18. Is concerned about the merging of media, political and government activities,
particularly regarding public spending; strongly condemns the existence of unlawful
economic, political and family ties in relation to the spending of public funds; calls on
the government to adopt a legislative framework that regulates conflicts of interest and
makes public the assets of persons occupying high state positions as an additional
measure to fight corruption;

19. Welcomes the fact that the legislative framework and strategies for fighting organised
crime are in place; welcomes the dismantling of criminal networks and routes related to
trafficking in human beings and drugs and calls for a further stepping up of the efforts
to fight organised crime; encourages further improvement of cooperation between law
enforcement agencies both within the country and with neighbouring countries and the
strengthening of the powers and resources of the courts; considers it essential to further
develop the law enforcement capacity to investigate financial crimes and confiscate

20. Appreciates the continued efforts to fight Islamic radicalisation and foreign terrorist
fighters; welcomes the adoption of the 2013-2019 strategy to fight terrorism, which also
defines the concepts of violent extremism, radicalisation, prevention and reintegration;
calls for its implementation through more cooperation between security agencies and
civil society organisations (CSOs), religious leaders, local communities and other state
institutions in the education, health and social services sectors in addressing the
different stages of radicalisation and developing tools for reintegration and
rehabilitation; further calls for continued monitoring of returning foreign fighters by
security services, their proper reintegration into society and a constant exchange of
information with the authorities of the EU and neighbouring countries;

21. Is concerned about signals coming from CSOs referring to the deterioration of the
climate in which they operate; remains concerned about radical public attacks on CSOs
and foreign representatives by politicians and the media; acknowledges and encourages
the important role played by CSOs in monitoring, supporting and improving democratic
processes, including the electoral process, and ensuring checks and balances; is
concerned about limited government commitment and insufficient cooperation with
CSOs at all levels; highlights the importance of a regular and constructive dialogue and
cooperation with CSOs and urges the competent authorities to include them in
policymaking in a regular and structured manner; calls on the authorities not to
discriminate against CSOs on any grounds such as political affiliation, religious views
or ethnic composition; believes that freedom of assembly and association should not be
denied to any group of people without serious justification;

22. Encourages the authorities to resume work on the interrupted census which would
provide accurate population statistics that could serve as a basis for government
development programmes and adequate budget planning;

23. Reminds the government and political parties of their responsibilities in shaping, by law and in practice, a culture of inclusion and tolerance; welcomes the adoption of the
national strategy for equality and non-discrimination 2016-2020; is concerned about
impartiality and the independence of the Commission for Protection from
Discrimination and calls for a transparent selection process for its members; reiterates
its condemnation of hate speech against discriminated groups; is concerned that
intolerance, discrimination and attacks against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and
intersex (LGBTI) people persists; reiterates its call for the Anti-Discrimination Law to
be aligned with the acquis as regards discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation;
underlines again the need to combat prejudice and discrimination against the Roma, and
to facilitate their integration and their access to the education system and the labour
market; is concerned about the inhumane physical conditions and overcrowding in
prisons, despite a significant increase in the prison budget; calls for the Ombudsman’s
recommendations to be respected;

24. Calls for further efforts to promote gender equality and increase the participation of
women in political life and employment, to improve their socio-economic situation and
to strengthen women’s rights on the whole; calls on the competent authorities to
improve the implementation of the Law on Equal Opportunities, to tackle the
underrepresentation of women in key decision-making positions at all levels and to
strengthen the effectiveness of institutional mechanisms to advance equality between
men and women; urges the competent authorities to make sufficient budget allocations
for its implementation; is concerned about the lack of women’s access to some basic
health services and the persistently high infant mortality rate;

25. Urges the government to take measures to review the Law on Prevention and Protection against Domestic Violence and other relevant laws, in order to provide appropriate protection to all victims of domestic violence and gender-based violence and to improve support services to victims of domestic violence, including an adequate number of shelters; further urges the government to ensure that cases of domestic violence are thoroughly investigated and perpetrators prosecuted, and to continue to raise awareness about domestic violence;

26. Reiterates that the interethnic situation remains fragile; urges all political parties and
CSOs to actively promote an inclusive and tolerant multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and
multi-religious society and to strengthen coexistence and dialogue; believes that specific
measures are needed in order to achieve social cohesion among the various ethnic,
national and religious communities; reminds the government and party leaders of their
commitment to fully implement the OFA in an inclusive and transparent manner, to
complete its overdue review without further delay, including policy recommendations,
and to ensure a sufficient budget for its implementation; condemns any form of
irredentism and any attempt to disintegrate different social groups; stresses the
importance of starting the long-awaited census without further delay;

27. Calls on the Commission to make further efforts to support a true reconciliation process in the region, notably through support for cultural projects dealing with the recent past and promoting a common and shared understanding of history and a public and political culture of tolerance, inclusion and reconciliation;

28. Reiterates that the authorities and civil society should take appropriate measures to
achieve historical reconciliation in order to overcome the divide between and within
different ethnic and national groups, including citizens of Bulgarian identity;

29. Urges the government to send clear signals to the public and the media that
discrimination on the basis of national identity is not tolerated in the country, including
in relation to the justice system, media, employment and social opportunities; underlines
the importance of these actions for the integration of the various ethnic communities
and the stability and European integration of the country;

30. Encourages the authorities to retrieve the relevant Yugoslav secret service archives from Serbia; takes the view that transparent handling of the totalitarian past, including the opening-up of the secret service archives, is a step towards further democratisation,
accountability and institutional strength;

31. Reiterates the importance of media freedom and independence as one of the core EU
values and a cornerstone of any democracy; remains concerned over freedom of
expression and the media, the use of hate speech, the cases of intimidation and selfcensorship, systemic political interference in and pressure on editorial policies, the
absence of investigative, objective and accurate reporting, as well as unbalanced
reporting of government activities; reiterates its call for reporting of a variety of
viewpoints through the mainstream media, particularly the public service broadcaster;

32. Calls on the new government to ensure that intimidation or violence against journalists is prevented and duly investigated and that those responsible be brought to justice; underlines the need for the sustainability and political and financial autonomy of the public service broadcast in order to ensure its financial and editorial independence, and the right of access to impartial information; calls for inclusive media interest
representation bodies; calls for the establishment of a professional code of conduct
accepted by both public and private media; encourages joint work between government
officials, CSOs and journalist organisations on the media reform;

33. Remains concerned that the political situation represents a serious risk to the
Macedonian economy; continues to be concerned about weak contract enforcement, the
size of the informal economy and the difficulty in obtaining access to finance; stresses
that the sizeable shadow economy is an important obstacle to business; stresses the need
to take measures to enhance competitiveness and job creation in the private sector, and
calls on the competent authorities to also address judicial efficiency;

34. Welcomes the maintenance of macro-economic stability, the reduction of the
unemployment rate and the government’s continued commitment to promoting growth
and employment through market-based economic policies, but is concerned about the
sustainability of public debt and the fact that unemployment still remains high with very
low labour market participation, especially among young people, women and the
disabled; further urges competent authorities to tackle long-term and structural
unemployment, to promote economic policy cooperation, to better align education with
labour market demands and to develop a targeted strategy on how to better integrate
young people and women into the labour market; is concerned about the outflow of
highly educated young professionals and strongly calls on the government to develop
programmes to allow highly educated young professionals to return and participate in
the political and decision-making processes; calls for action to improve fiscal discipline
and transparency and increase budget planning capacity; encourages the principle of
balanced budgets; notes that a reliable and predictable regulatory environment for
businesses leads to increased macro-economic stability and growth; calls for proper
consultation with all stakeholders in this regard;

35. Welcomes the progress made in modernising transport, energy and telecommunications networks and, in particular, the efforts to complete Corridor X1; in view of the importance of railway links in the framework of a sustainable system of transport, welcomes the government’s intention to upgrade or construct railway links from Skopje to the capitals of the neighbouring countries and calls for greater progress, especially in the finalisation of the railway and road connections within Corridor VIII2;

36. Commends the good level of preparation in the field of electronic communications and the information society; calls for further advancement in the area of cyber security and underlines the need to develop and adopt a national cyber security strategy in order to increase cyber resilience;

37. Is concerned about the significant shortcomings in the field of the environment, in
particular in the area of industrial pollution and air and water pollution; notes that the
current condition of the water-supply system is generally poor, resulting in high water
loss and water quality issues; stresses the need to develop and implement a sustainable
waste policy and calls for a comprehensive policy and strategy on climate action to be
developed that is in line with the EU 2030 framework for climate policy, and for the
ratification and implementation of the Paris Climate Agreement;

38. Welcomes the country’s constructive role in regional cooperation, particularly in the
Western Balkans Six initiative and connectivity agenda; notes, however, that transport
and energy infrastructure linkages to regional neighbours and the connection to the
TEN-T network are still limited; welcomes the progress made on the security of supply,
as well as in the area of electricity transmission interconnectors and gas
interconnections; notes the agreement signed with the Western Balkans countries on the
development of a regional electricity market; highlights the need to make progress on
opening up the electricity market and to develop competition in the gas and energy
market, working towards the unbundling of utilities in line with the EU’s Third Energy
Package; calls for substantial improvements as regards energy efficiency, the production
of renewable energy and the fight against climate change; calls for the ratification of the
Paris climate agreement;

39. Urges the authorities to strengthen the administrative and financing capacities in order to ensure a transparent, efficient and effective public procurement regime, prevent any irregularities and implement EU funds properly and in a timely manner, and to provide, at the same time, detailed regular reports on the programming and use of Community funds; notes with concern that the Commission has yet again reduced the IPA financial assistance by approximately EUR 27 million as a consequence of the lack of political 1 Corridor X is one of the pan-European transport corridors and runs from Salzburg (Austria) to Thessaloniki (Greece). 2 Corridor VIII is one of the pan-European transport corridors and runs from Durrë (Albania) to Varna (Bulgaria). It also passes through Skopje. commitment to deliver on reforms in public financial management; calls on the Commission to include information about IPA support for the country and the
effectiveness of implemented measures in its reports, in particular the IPA support
allocated to implementation of the key priorities and relevant projects;

40. Commends the country for its constructive role and cooperation and its tremendous
efforts in addressing the challenges of the migration crisis, thus substantially
contributing to the security and stability of the EU; in this regard, calls on the
Commission to provide the country with all necessary tools to alleviate the crisis;
recommends further measures and actions in compliance with international
humanitarian law to improve its asylum system, to ensure the necessary capacity to
prevent and combat trafficking in human beings and in migrants, including cooperation
agreements with neighbouring States in the fight against crime, and to ensure effective
border management;

41. Notes that the country lies on the so-called ‘Western Balkans route’ and that
approximately 600 000 refugees and migrants, including vulnerable groups such as
children and the elderly, have so far travelled through it on their way to Europe; urges
its authorities to ensure that migrants and refugees applying for asylum in the country or traveling through its territory, are treated in accordance with international and EU law, including the 1951 Refugee Conventions and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights;

42. Calls on the Commission to continue the work on migration-related issues with all the
countries of the Western Balkans, in order to make sure that European and international
norms and standards are followed;

43. Emphasises the importance of regional cooperation as a tool to drive forward the
process of EU integration, and commends the country’s constructive efforts and
proactive contributions in promoting bilateral relations with all countries in the region;

44. Believes that regional cooperation is an essential element in the EU accession process,
bringing stability and prosperity to the region, and should be a priority for the
government; welcomes the country’s continued constructive role and proactive
contributions towards promoting bilateral, regional and international cooperation, as
well as its participation in civilian and military crisis management operations;
commends the increased alignment with EU foreign policy (73°%); calls on
Macedonian authorities to also align with the EU’s restrictive measures against Russia
following the illegal annexation of Crimea; reiterates the importance of finalising the
negotiations on a treaty on friendship and good neighbourliness with Bulgaria; calls on
the authorities to respect the political, social and cultural rights of citizens of the country
who identify themselves as Bulgarians;

45. Encourages the establishment of joint expert committees on history and education with neighbouring countries, with the aim of contributing to an objective, fact-based
interpretation of history, strengthening academic cooperation and promoting positive
attitudes in young people towards their neighbours;

46. Welcomes the tangible results from the initiative for confidence-building measures
between this country and Greece, which could contribute to a better understanding and
stronger bilateral relations, paving the way for a mutually acceptable solution to the
name issue, and acknowledges positive developments regarding their implementation;
underlines the importance of avoiding gestures, controversial actions and statements
which can have a negative impact on good neighbourly relations; strongly reiterates its
invitation to the Vice-President/High Representative (VP/HR) and the Commission to
develop new initiatives to overcome the remaining differences and to work, in
cooperation with the two countries and the UN Special Representative, on a mutually
acceptable solution on the name issue and to report back to Parliament thereon;

47. Welcomes the activities carried out in the framework of the Berlin Process, which
demonstrate strong political support for the European perspective of Western Balkan
countries; points out the importance of this process for the promotion of the economic
development of the countries in the region through investments in core networks and
bilateral projects in the fields of infrastructure, the economy and interconnectivity;
reiterates the importance of active participation in the regional youth-related initiatives,
such as the Regional Youth Cooperation Office of the Western Balkans; welcomes the
establishment of the Western Balkans Fund, and urges the Commission to take into
account the initiatives and projects proposed;

48. Commends the country on its chairmanship of the CEI when the focus throughout 2015 was on economic cooperation and business opportunities, infrastructure and general economic development, including rural development and tourism, and on bridging macro-regions;

49. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Vice-President/High Representative, the Commission, the governments and parliaments of the Member States and the government and parliament of the country.

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