Balkanalysis on Twitter Briefing on the EP Debate on Macedonia’s Enlargement Report, March 2012

Strasbourg, France– On March 14, 2012, during the debate on Macedonia’s enlargement report in the European Parliament, contributor Maria-Antoaneta Neag followed the exchange of views, allowing for the following overview of the discussion in its essence.

On the basis of the Commission’s Progress Report released in October 2011 and following the latest Council conclusions, the European Parliament drafted a report for the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (Rapporteur: Richard Howitt). During the plenary debate, Nicolai Wammen, the President-in-Office of the Council, Commissioner Füle and several Members of the European Parliament, commented on the country’s achievements as well as the challenges remaining.

Macedonia’s involvement in regional initiatives was praised alongside its contribution to the EU’s Althea mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Good neighborly relations and the UN-led and EU supported negotiation process in the remaining name issue with Greece are essential for the future development of the country, it was affirmed.

Macedonia’s progress in the reform of the parliament, judiciary, public administration, and respect for and protection of minorities was welcomed. Proper implementation must follow in order for the reforms to be successful, it was agreed. The 2011 elections were handled well and proved to be competitive, transparent and well administered throughout the country, but electoral reform needs to be completed.

The main area of concern, according to the Danish Presidency is the freedom of expression in the media. The closure of a major television channel and several newspapers – officially justified by tax evasion allegations – was criticised by some Euro MPs, who considered it selective and with negative consequences for the diversity of the Macedonian media environment. On the same subject, however, Commissioner Füle was pleased to note that a dialogue between government and journalists has started and that defamation will be decriminalised according to the latest statements by PM Gruevski and Deputy Prime Minister Arifi.

Corruption remains another problem to be dealt with, it was also mentioned, though positive signs did appear in this sense with the adoption of the new criminal procedure code. Even though EP rapporteur Richard Howitt drafted the report in a positive light, he criticized the resolution of war crimes, and discrimination and ill-treatment from the police. The country’s September 2011 success in the basketball championship was mentioned, with Howitt defending public celebrations that ensued as illustrative of the difference between positive expressions of national pride and other forms of illegitimate political nationalism.

Concluding the debate, Commissioner Füle reiterated that it is the third consecutive time that there was a consensus among the institutions that negotiations should no longer fail to start. The Commissioner called on both Skopje and Athens to reach a joint compromise, taking into account that Europe has a challenging historical past and that identity-building is an ongoing process. This is why present and future steps are more important in the broader picture, he maintained. is an American research and analysis firm that provides dedicated coverage of the Balkan and Eastern Mediterranean regions, in areas ranging from politics and security to economics and culture. It draws on the expertise of its broad network of field analysts and reporters representing a number of various countries and professional backgrounds.

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