Wednesday, January 28, 2009

EU in new election warning to Macedonia

Macedonia’s EU integration process could be postponed if the next elections do not meet international standards, European Union officials have warned.

Presidential and local elections will be held on March 22 in Macedonia.

“If these elections do not completely fulfill international standards, I am afraid that it will be a great failure for the country and will postpone its EU integration,” the EU’s envoy to Macedonia Irvan Fuer said.

Macedonia applied for EU membership in 2004, but has not fulfilled all the necessary criteria for starting talks on EU association.

Fuer said that an unsuccessful election process would postpone the EU integration process until the next elections, which are due in 2012.

There was violence during last year’s parliamentary elections between rival Albanian parties. One person died and nine were injured in the clashes.

Fuer said that if the March elections went off without a hitch and if Skopje implemented all the necessary reforms, then the “European Commission will have enough of an argument to recommend (the opening of association talks).”

The EU will offer training for Macedonian police before the elections, and called on Macedonian leaders to maintain security and a positive atmosphere for voting.

Fuer said that the dispute between Skopje and Athens regarding Macedonia’s name “is a separate issue not related to reforms, and the Commission will be basing its report on reforms.”

He added that EU officials had told Skopje that the dispute with Greece must be resolved before EU association could continue.

Greece has threatened to block Macedonia’s integration process if no compromise is reached, while the EU has called for both sides to continue the UN-brokered negotiations.

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