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East, rivista internazionale di geopolitica
European Regional Master's Degree in Democracy and Human Rights in South East Europe

Macedonia's EU Accession, Negotiation or Stagnation?

The paper was written in February 2007.

Several days after the last visit of EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn to Macedonia, the Macedonian media did not hesitate to declare the visit as «the black Thursday of the Macedonian political elite» due to the heavy criticism of the political climate in the country. Just one year before, Macedonia was still celebrating the granting of the candidate status with optimistic prognosis of a date for starting accession negotiations by the end of 2006. In the mean time, Macedonia witnessed a successful election process, change of government, but also a failure to complete the Commission's short term priorities which serves as a remainder of the weakness of the institutional system.

While «implementing reforms of the police and judiciary, the fight against corruption, and full implementation of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement» remain the long-lasting stepping stones of Macedonia's accession negotiations aspirations, the change of government delivered a new serious problem of lack of political dialogue and increased tensions between majority and opposition parties. Although the Commission clearly stated that «it is important that reform efforts be sustained in the period ahead on the basis of co-operation and political consensus», the political elites have further deepened the problem and so far have failed to comply with EU demands.

On the other hand, the government has targeted the first half of 2008 as a date for starting accession negotiations and has been enhancing the institutional design and the administrative capacity in order to be able to start the screening process. The failure to get a date for accession negotiations also derives from the slow pace of public administration reform which appears to have been overwhelmed by the election process and political turmoil. In this sense, as the Commission stated, «independence and professionalism of the administration, as well as administrative capacity» are positioned as the most important reform benchmarks that ought to provide bases for accession negotiations.

Hence, this article centres on the state of the Macedonian EU accession process and analyses two crucial reform segments necessary in the pursuit of a date for opening accession negotiations. Firstly, the paper focuses on the political criteria, the problem of political dialogue and the factors that influence the problem. Here, the author argues that Macedonia was facing its first significant breach of EU conditionality which was not per se dependant on the institutional system, but rather on political elite behaviour. He further concludes that the problem of political elites not being able to provide political consensus would be short lived and could not continue on a mid term bases due to external and internal constraints. Secondly, the paper focuses on the public administration reform. Here, the author advocates that a successful negotiation process for Macedonia would be depending on the ability to apply an institutional approach and redefinition of decision making within the intra-institutional hierarchy.

Paper's framework

  • Introduction
  • Infringing of conditionality
  • Institutional approach towards effective implementation
  • Conclusion

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