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Brussels, 24 July 2012
Statement of Commissioner Štefan Füle at the press conference after the Association council with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
"Today's meeting of the Stabilisation and Association Council was a useful opportunity to jointly review the progress of the accession process, including the priority areas under the High Level Accession Dialogue (HLAD). As I have said several times: HLAD is a bridge towards accession negotiations and not a bridge over it. It has brought fresh energy to the accession process already and I hope more is to come.
We welcome the fact that the government prepared and adopted the stock taking report on the Ohrid Framework Agreement. This is a significant development. Based on this initial report, a set of recommendations can be produced for future actions that will strengthen the shared vision for a common future.
Also important is the freedom of expression, in particular in the media. The draft Law on Civil Liability for Insult and Defamation will be a good step forward once adopted. It is important that the law is brought in line with European standards in consultation with the stakeholders and that the Criminal Code is revised accordingly. We encourage the dialogue in the country to continue on other issues related to freedom of expression such as media ownership, government advertising and the labour rights of journalists.
As regards electoral reform, we welcome that draft amendments to the Electoral Code have been sent to ODIHR for consultation. Work needs to be accelerated in order to be ready for the next elections in 2013.
The country continues to fulfil its commitments under the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA). Therefore the Commission reiterates its proposal to move to the second stage of implementation of the SAA that would deepen the market liberalisation.
Overall we see that a lot of work has been launched and that some results are starting to be achieved. It is now time to continue on the good path, and follow up on the commitments which have been made. This is the way to achieve a positive climate later this year when the Member States will take decisions about the enlargement process."