Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Macedonians progressing towards EU membership - despite issue of their country's name

Progress towards EU membership by the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, including reforms and recent agreements between the government and opposition on the use of Albanian in public institutions and the protection of ethnic minorities in decision-making, was welcomed in a Foreign Affairs Committee report adopted on Tuesday. "Macedonia's name issue should not burden its relationship with the EU", the country's Foreign Minister, Antonio Milososki, told the committee on Monday.

The own initiative report recognises the progress by fYRoM since it applied for EU membership in 2004, but stresses that "the reform momentum must be maintained, and that the adopted legislation must now be properly and promptly implemented." The report, drawn up by Erik Meijer (GUE/NGL, NL), was approved by the committee with 58 votes in favour, 4 against and no abstentions. MEPs were especially concerned about reforms in the fields of police, judiciary and public administration, as well as the fight against corruption.

The committee also commended the Macedonian government for its co-operation in Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP), and welcomed the initialling of visa facilitation agreements with the EU.

Protection of ethnic minority interests

Members noted with satisfaction the Ohrid Framework Agreement, which introduces the double majority, or "Badinter" principle, to protect ethnic minorities in parliamentary decision-making and an agreement on the list of laws to be subject to this principle. The committee also welcomed the successful consultations between government and opposition on the use of Albanian in public institutions, but criticised the opposition's boycott of Parliament, pointing out that such practices "are incompatible with functioning parliamentary institutions."

Name issue not part of EU accession conditions

The most enduring controversy over fYRoM still seems to be the country's official name. The committee welcomed the fact that fYRoM has changed its flag, and has made constitutional amendments to confirm that it has no territorial claims against neighbouring countries. MEPs urged the Macedonian and Greek governments to conclude talks on this issue as soon as possible, while reiterating that "the name issue neither is nor can be part of the conditions related to the country's EU accession agenda."

fYRoM's position on Kosovo

On Kosovo, Minister Milososki said that "any status settlement is better than the status quo." The committee welcomed the country's constructive position on the future status of Kosovo, while regretting that no frontier demarcation had taken place between the two sides.

Committee on Foreign Affairs
Chair : Jacek Saryusz-Wolski (EPP-ED, PL)
Own-initiative report
Plenary Vote: July, Strasbourg

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