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European Commission

Štefan Füle

European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy

Discussing progress and shortcomings of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

Plenary session of the European Parliament/ Brussels

22 May 2013

President, Honourable Members,

I would like to pay tribute to the quality of the report which has been prepared by your Rapporteur, Mr. Richard Howitt. I welcome the supportive stance you have taken towards the country's efforts in the accession process. I also share your concerns about the risks of prolonging the status quo.

For the purpose of today's debate, let me recall the main conclusions of the Commission's Spring Report on the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia:

  1. first, implementation of reforms is on-going. At the latest meeting of the High Level Accession Dialogue, held in Skopje on 9 April, we noted that action had been taken in relation to almost all of the High Level Accession Dialogue targets;

  2. second, steps have also been taken on good neighbourly relations, in particular with Bulgaria and Greece.

We were also encouraged that formal talks on the 'name issue' took on new momentum in April with another proposal from the UN Secretary General's Special Representative which he hopes can lead to a breakthrough.

Having said this, I remain deeply concerned by the follow-up to the political crisis that affected the country last winter. An agreement was reached on the 1st of March to overcome the crisis. This allowed the opposition SDSM to return to Parliament and participate in the recently held local elections. However, other elements of this agreement have not yet been fully implemented - in particular:

  1. the set-up of a Committee of Inquiry into the events of 24 December which should make recommendations to avoid a recurrence;

  2. the signature of a cross party Memorandum of Understanding confirming the will of all parties to continue on the European path; and

  3. resumption of media dialogue between government and the Association of Journalists.

While efforts are continuing to get the Committee of Inquiry up and working, results have been slow. These delays and the limited political dialogue between the parties raise doubts about their commitment to fully implement the 1 March agreement, a message I conveyed very clearly to Prime Minister Gruevski.

Honourable Members,

Serbia and Kosovo's historic agreement has injected new momentum into the enlargement process. This is an opportunity that the region and other countries should not miss. The Serbia-Kosovo deal shows that, when there is political will, solutions can be found. As we know in the European Union, in such instances, compromise can lead to greater rewards.

Thank you for your attention.

Closing remarks

President, Honourable Members,

Let me thank you for this substantial debate which demonstrated a high level of attention and support of this House towards the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. I have taken good note of your suggestions which I will consider in our continuing endeavours to support the country's progress on its European path.

On 1 March, I went, together with MEPs Richard Howitt and Jerzy Buzek to Skopje where we facilitated an agreement to solve the political crisis.

In June, the Council will decide whether to accept the Commission's recommendation to open accession negotiations. For the Council to take a positive decision the country must demonstrate the necessary political will. This implies the full implementation of the 1 March political agreement and continued efforts to improve neighbourly relations. On the other hand, it is also necessary that the county's level of preparedness and the reform efforts that have been taken over the past year are judged objectively and fairly.

Thank you.


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