EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele: Macedonia must boost reforms

Macedonia must boost reforms in several areas if it hopes not to spoil last year’s positive report from the European Commission that contained a recommendation for the start of its EU accession talks.

This is what EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele conveyed on Tuesday in Brussels to his guest, Macedonia’s Foreign Minister Antonio Milososki.

The EC hopes that Macedonia can still boost stalled reforms to improve professional standards in the public administration, secure greater judicial efficiency and independence, and improve the overall political dialogue in the country.

The time for progress is short as the country will face its first test on July 20 in Brussels when the 7th Association and Stabilization meeting between Macedonia and the EU will be held.

“It is of essential importance for Macedonia and the EC that the July 20 Council meeting is carried out in a positive atmosphere, including a productive discussion on Macedonia’s reforms in administration, judiciary, and political dialogue, as well as laws concerning the country’s energy market,” Milososki told media after the meeting.

Macedonian media comment that if there is no progress by July 20 then there is a distinct possibility that the country will spoil its positive EC report from last year, and that the EC, in its fresh report due to be published this autumn, could withdraw its recommendation for the start of Macedonia’s accession talks with the EU.

Fuele met with Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski on June 17 to convey the same message- Macedonia must speed up the implementation of reforms.

Last autumn the EC assessed that the country was ready to begin EU accession negotiations. However, Greece subsequently used its right to veto and blocked Macedonia from getting the start date over the unresolved name dispute between the two countries.

Athens insists that Skopje must change its official name, Republic of Macedonia, before Greece will agree to the start of negotiations. Athens says that the name implies territorial claims against its own northern province, also called Macedonia.

Despite the UN mediated Athens-Skopje name talks and the EU insistence on solving the row as soon as possible, there has not yet been a breakthrough in the spat.

Over the past several weeks EU representatives as well as Greek and Macedonian officials expressed optimism that a solution might be found soon.

The Macedonia prime minister said recently that the country expects UN mediator Matthew Nimetz to come out with a fresh compromise proposal before long.

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