Accession of Macedonia to the European Union
The Republic of Macedonia has been a candidate for accession to the European Union since 2005 but has not yet entered into accession negotiations. It submitted its membership application in 2004, thirteen years after its independence from former Yugoslavia. As of June 2014, it is one of six candidate countries, together with Albania, Iceland, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey, after the latest round of enlargement that brought membership to Croatia. Among current obstacles to full membership is the ongoing dispute with Greece over the country's name, which is also the reason why it is officially addressed by the European Union with the provisional appellation "Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia", rather than its constitutional name, "Republic of Macedonia". Another problem is that there are strained relations between Macedonia and Bulgaria. Accession to the EU has been defined as the highest strategic priority for the country's government. The expected accession is currently described as a "medium to long term" prospect.
The government's motto for the candidacy is "The Sun, too, is a star", referring to the sun from the flag of the Republic of Macedonia being displayed among the other stars in the Flag of Europe, in the official logo of the candidacy.
The Republic of Macedonia began its formal process of rapprochment with the European Union in 2000, by initiating negotiations about the EU's Stabilisation and Association Process, and it became the first non-EU country in the Balkans to sign the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA), on 9 April 2001 in Luxembourg. The agreement was ratified by the Macedonian parliament on 12 April 2001, and was the first to be ratified by all the member states and come into force on 1 April 2004.
At the same time, on 22 March 2004 in Dublin, Ireland, Macedonia submitted its application for EU membership. On 6 September 2004, the Macedonian government adopted a National Strategy for European integration, supported by the country's parliament through its Commission for European Issues. The government subsequently began the procedure of answering the questionnaire of the European Commission regarding its performance in preparation for membership in accordance with the Copenhagen criteria, a process that was finished by 31 January 2005. The European Council officially granted the country candidate status on 17 December 2005, after a review and a positive recommendation of the candidacy by the European Commission.
This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
the Republic of Macedonia
A major obstacle for the accession process is the Republic's still-unresolved dispute with Greece over its name. While the country prefers to be called by its constitutional name, Republic of Macedonia, the European Union, in acknowledgment of concerns raised by Greece, has maintained a practice of recognising it only as the "former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia", the compromise "provisional reference" introduced by the United Nations in 1993. Greece, as any other EU country, has veto power against new accessions, and has repeatedly stated that it will block Macedonian accession unless the naming issue is resolved beforehand. Since 2008, resolution of the naming conflict has also been added to the official preconditions raised by the EU.
In 2006 EU sources criticized the country's leadership under prime minister Nikola Gruevski for its policies against its Albanian minority and the politicisation of many state institutions, warning that these problems may become obstacles to the official start of accession talks.
In October 2012, the European Commission recommended for the fourth consecutive year that membership negotiations with Macedonia be launched. On each previous occasion the opening of negotiations were vetoed by Greece. In 2012 Bulgaria also utilized their veto.
A solution for the long-lasting naming dispute however moved considerably closer, when the Greek foreign minister on 4 October 2012 forwarded a draft for a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to settle the question. According to the Euractive website the proposal was answered positively by the Macedonian foreign minister on 8 November 2012. Štefan Füle, European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy, stated that the softening of positions by the two states could allow for accession negotiations to begin before a compromise on the naming dispute was reached. On 11 December 2012, the Council of the European Union concluded that Macedonia could start accession negotiations as early as the second quarter of 2013, conditional on reaching an agreement on its dispute with Bulgaria and Greece. The Council was encouraged that progress on the latter dispute had recently been made by a UN mediator.
However, in February 2013 Füle canceled his planned trip to Macedonia to assess the country's progress on reforms due to ongoing political instability in the country, including the boycott of parliament and the threat to boycott upcoming local elections by the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia. He warned that the stalemate was “putting at risk” the launch of accession negotiations. The political crisis was resolved when the EU brokered a compromise between Macedonia's political parties on 1 March 2013.
In October 2013 the European Commission recommended for a fifth straight year that accession negotiations with Macedonia be launched. At the most recent meeting of the Council of the European Union in December 2013, the Council for the fifth consecutive year concluded that "the political criteria continue to be sufficiently met", but in regards to making the final decision to open accession negotiations it was only agreed to revisit the issue in 2014. The decision whether or not to start accession negotiations will be made "on the basis of an update by the Commission on further implementation of reforms in the context of the High Level Accession Dialogue, including the implementation of the 1 March 2013 political agreement - and on tangible steps taken to promote good neighborly relations [with Bulgaria] - and to reach a negotiated and mutually accepted solution to the name issue [with Greece]".
The UN mediator, Matthew Nimetz, has invited Greece and Macedonia to a new round of "name dispute" negotiations to begin on 26 March 2014. In February 2014, the European Parliament passed a resolution stating that according to its assessment, the Copenhagen criteria has been sufficiently fulfilled for Macedonia to begin negotiations for EU accession, and called on the Council of the European Union to confirm the date for the launch of accession negotiations straight away, as bilateral disputes must not be an obstacle for the start of talks - although they must be solved before the accession. However, it remains to be seen whether or not the Council decides to agree with the parliament's opinion at its next meeting in June 2014.
As of May 2014 the name dispute was still unresolved, but it was announced that negotiations were to be resumed after the Greek EP election and local elections on 25 May. At the most recent Council meeting in June 2014, the fixing of a start date for Macedonia's accession negotiations was not on the agenda.
- October 1992 — The Republic of Macedonia appoints its representative in Brussels, agreeing to the use of the "former Yugoslav" before its constitutional name ("Republic of Macedonia") designation in bilateral relations;
- 22 December 1995 — The Republic and the EU establish diplomatic relations. Negotiations commence directed at an agreement with a wide scope of co-operation in the fields of trade, financial operations and transport;
- February 1996 — The permanent Macedonian Mission in Brussels is upgraded to an ambassadorial level;
- 10 March 1996 — Macedonia becomes a full partner in the PHARE Programme (Poland and Hungary: Assistance for Reconstruction of their Economies);
- 20 March 1996 — Negotiations begin towards a Cooperation Agreement and a Transport Agreement between the Republic and the European Communities;
- 20 June 1996 — Conclusion of the Cooperation Agreement and the Transport Agreement;
- November 1997 — The Transport Agreement enters into force;
- 1 January 1998 – The Cooperation Agreement enters into force;
- February 1998 — 1st political talks on ministerial level are held in Ohrid, in accordance with the Cooperation Agreement;
- 11 March 1998 — A Trade and Textile Agreement is signed (it remains in force until 1998 and is later replaced with a new agreement on 1 January 2000)
- 21 and 22 March 1998 — 1st meeting of a mutual Cooperation Council in Skopje;
- 5 March 1999 – 2nd meeting of the Cooperation Council in Brussels
- 24 January 2000 — The European Commission adopts directives regarding cooperation and regarding the official start of negotiations for potential membership
- March 2000 — Opening of the EU Delegation in Skopje; appointment of the first Chief of the Delegation;
- 5 April 2000 — Start of 1st round of negotiations on the SAA
- June 2000 – Adoption of a Perspective (regulation) on Potential Membership by the European Council in Fiera
- 24 November 2000 – The SAA is initiated at the Zagreb Summit
- December 2000 – Entering into force of Council Regulation on Introducing Exceptional Trade Measures; Macedonia joins the Regional CARDS Programme 2002–2006;
- 16 February 2001 — Interim Agreement on SAA Trade Provisions signed;
- 9 April 2001 — SAA and Interim Agreement on Trade and Trade Issues signed. The Agreement enters into force on 1 June 2001;
- January 2002 — Supplementary Protocol on Wine and Spirits, and Textile Products Trade Agreement;
- 20 February 2003 — The President of the European Commission, Romano Prodi, visits Skopje, reconfirming the EU position on the country's perspective for EU membership;
- 25 July 2003 — Last of 6 meetings of the Cooperation Council in Brussels;
- February 2004 — “Declaration on the Application for EU membership” signed by the Macedonian parliament
- 22 March 2004 — At a ceremony in Dublin, Ireland, the Macedonian government submitted the application for membership in the EU;
- 1 April 2004 — SAA enters into force following the ratifications by all the EU Member States;
- 3 June 2004 — 1st meeting of the Stabilisation and Association Committee held in Skopje;
- 6 September 2004 — National Strategy for European Integration adopted by the Macedonian government;
- 14 September 2004 — 1st meeting of the Stabilisation and Association Council in Brussels;
- 1 October 2004 — Questionnaire on accession preparation submitted to the Macedonian government by the European Commission
- 31 January 2005 — Answers to the Questionnaire finalised by the Macedonian government
- 14 February 2005 — Answers to the Questionnaire submitted to the European Commission by a Macedonian delegation in Brussels
- Additional Questions to the Questionnaire of the European Commission that were received on 22 April 2005, are answered, accepted by the Republic's government and sent to Brussels on 10 May 2005
- 9 November 2005 — Positive recommendation on Macedonian accession issued by the European Commission
- 17 December 2005 — The European Council in Brussels approves the candidate status.
- 9 November 2006 — The European Commission decides to start visa facilitation negotiations with the Republic.
- 12 July 2007 – The European Parliament issues the 2006 Progress Report on the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia Both Greece and the Republic declare a "victory" – The report is critical of the Bilateral Immunity Agreement with the USA (which violates the principles of the Rome Statute); failures in the implementation of the Badinter principle; the Khaled El-Masri affair; the renaming of Skopje Airport to "Alexander the Great"; and other issues such as environmental protection and neighborly relations. Two proposed amendments referring to Bulgaria and Greece's failure to recognize a Macedonian minority living in these countries, and one referring to the constitutional name Republic of Macedonia, were rejected. On the other hand, the EU reiterated that the naming issue will not be considered in the accession process (although Greece's ability to veto remains intact). EuroMPs from the ruling Greek Nea Dimokratia party voted in favor of the resolution; those from the opposition PASOK party voted against.
- 23 June 2008 – Following the EU summit, the resolution of the naming dispute was added as a precondition to EU accession.
- 14 October 2009 – The European Commission has recommended start of the accession negotiations for full-fledged membership of the Republic of Macedonia.
- 8 December 2009 – The EU council of ministers postpones granting Macedonia a start date for accession negotiations until at least the first half of 2010.
- 14 March 2012 - European Parliament adopts a resolution urging the Council to give the country a date to start accession negotiations. The institution regrets the fact that accession prospects are blocked by a dispute with Greece. EP also raises concerns regarding corruption and the segregation of children from different ethnic groups.
- 29 March 2012 - European Commission launches a High Level Accession Dialogue with Skopje.
- 10 October 2012 - In its report the Commission recommends the opening of accession negotiations to accelerate reforms in the country in favor to a quick resolution of the dispute over the name with Greece under the auspices of the Commission.
|Acquis chapter||EC Assessment at Start||Screening Started||Screening Completed||Chapter Opened||Chapter Closed|
|1. Free Movement of Goods||Very Hard To Adopt||–||–||–||–|
|2. Freedom of Movement For Workers||Further efforts needed||–||–||–||–|
|3. Right of Establishment & Freedom To Provide Services||Further efforts needed||–||–||–||–|
|4. Free Movement of Capital||Further efforts needed||–||–||–||–|
|5. Public Procurement||Considerable efforts needed||–||–||–||–|
|6. Company Law||Considerable efforts needed||–||–||–||–|
|7. Intellectual Property Law||Very Hard To Adopt||–||–||–||–|
|8. Competition Policy||Very Hard To Adopt||–||–||–||–|
|9. Financial Services||Further efforts needed||–||–||–||–|
|10. Information Society & Media||Considerable efforts needed||–||–||–||–|
|11. Agriculture & Rural Development||Considerable efforts needed||–||–||–||–|
|12. Food Safety, Veterinary & Phytosanitary Policy||Considerable efforts needed||–||–||–||–|
|13. Fisheries||No major difficulties expected||–||–||–||–|
|14. Transport Policy||Considerable efforts needed||–||–||–||–|
|15. Energy||Considerable efforts needed||–||–||–||–|
|16. Taxation||Considerable efforts needed||–||–||–||–|
|17. Economic & Monetary Policy||No major difficulties expected||–||–||–||–|
|18. Statistics||No major difficulties expected||–||–||–||–|
|19. Social Policy & Employment||Considerable efforts needed||–||–||–||–|
|20. Enterprise & Industrial Policy||No major difficulties expected||–||–||–||–|
|21. Trans-European Networks||No major difficulties expected||–||–||–||–|
|22. Regional Policy & Coordination of Structural Instruments||Considerable efforts needed||–||–||–||–|
|23. Judiciary & Fundamental Rights||Considerable efforts needed||–||–||–||–|
|24. Justice, Freedom & Security||Considerable efforts needed||–||–||–||–|
|25. Science & Research||No major difficulties expected||–||–||–||–|
|26. Education & Culture||No major difficulties expected||–||–||–||–|
|27. Environment||Totally incompatible with acquis||–||–||–||–|
|28. Consumer & Health Protection||Further efforts needed||–||–||–||–|
|29. Customs Union||Considerable efforts needed||–||–||–||–|
|30. External Relations||No major difficulties expected||–||–||–||–|
|31. Foreign, Security & Defence Policy||No major difficulties expected||–||–||–||–|
|32. Financial Control||Very Hard To Adopt||–||–||–||–|
|33. Financial & Budgetary Provisions||No major difficulties expected||–||–||–||–|
|34. Institutions||Nothing to adopt||–||–||–||–|
|35. Other Issues||Nothing to adopt||–||–||–||–|
|Progress||0 out of 33||0 out of 33||0 out of 35||0 out of 35|
Visa liberalisation process
On 1 January 2008 the visa facilitation and readmission agreements between Serbia and the EU entered into force. Macedonia began a visa liberalisation dialogue with the EU in February 2008 and was added to the list of visa exempt nationals on 19 December 2009, allowing their citizens to enter the Schengen Area, Bulgaria, Cyprus and Romania without a visa when traveling with biometric passports.
The Macedonian government has established a management infrastructure for the European integration process on the basis of a paper adopted in 1997 under the title "The strategic bases of the Republic of Macedonia on achieving the membership of the European Union". It consists of the following institutions:
- The Committee for Euro-Atlantic Integration plays the central role in the decision-making of the country's policies in the European integration process. It is chaired by the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Ministers, all ministers in the Government, the Governor of the National Bank of the Republic of Macedonia and the President of the Macedonian Academy of Sciences and Arts are members of the Committee.
- The Working Committee for European Integration of the Government of the Republic of Macedonia (WCEI) – It is chaired by the Deputy Prime Ministers in charge of EU Integration, whose deputy is the Minister of Economy. The members are the secretaries from all Ministries. It is an operational, inter-ministerial body establishing the methods and dynamics for implementation of strategic decisions, political guidelines and priorities of the Government, as well as monitoring the realization of the concrete tasks.
- The Deputy to the President of the Government is responsible for the European integration as centre in the management and coordination of the operational part of the integration process. Its support and service is the Sector for European Integration within the General Secretariat of the Government of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
- The Sector for European Integration within the Republic's government is given the task to organise, coordinate and synchronise the EU integration process. It is organized in seven units in charge of the approximation of the national legislation with that of the EU, translation of the EU legal acts, institution building, support to the WCEI, coordination of foreign assistance, and information to the broader public on EU and the European integration process.
- Departments/Sectors/Units for European Integration within the Ministries have similar structure and competencies as the central Sector for European Integration within the Government, being a key link in the institutional infrastructure.
- The Ministry of Foreign Affairs – EU domain – is responsible for communications with the EU structures through the Mission of former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in Brussels, gathering valid and timely information that have impact on the integration process and presenting the uniform perspectives and positions in the European structures.
The other institutions supporting the EU integration process are the following:
- the Republic's Assembly and its Commission for European Issues
- the Secretariat for Legislation
- the General Secretariat of the Government
- the Subcommittee of the WCEI for approximation of the legislation with its working groups
Impact of joining
|Member countries||Population||Area (km²)||
per capita (US$)
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- "Embassy of Greece – Washington, DC". Answer of FM Ms. D. Bakoyannis regarding the FYROM name issue. Retrieved 11 September 2006.
- "United Macedonian Diaspora". Interview with Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis. Retrieved 2 November 2006.
- "Report by B. Khiotis: «Εγώ δεν είπα ποτέ τη λέξη βέτο» (Greek) ("I never used the word veto"), To Vima, 11 September 2007
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- "EU ends Macedonian deadlock". European Voice. 2 March 2013. Retrieved 22 March 2014.
- "Key findings of the 2013 Progress Report on the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia".
- "Council conclusions on Enlargement and Stabilisation and Association Process".
- "Utrinski Vesnik, Macedonia: Matthew Nimetz sets new round of name issue talks". FOCUS News Agency. 21 March 2014. Retrieved 22 March 2014.
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- "Greek Diplomatic Sources: The Name Negotiations to Continue after the Greek Elections". Independent.mk. 8 May 2014.
- "Macedonia not on the agenda of the June European Council summit". Mactel. 26 June 2014.
- European Parliament resolution of 12 July 2007 on the 2006 Progress Report on the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
- "EP adopted report on Macedonia".
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- "EU lifts visa restrictions for Serbia". 30 November 2009. Retrieved 30 November 2009.
- Relations of the European Union with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (English)
- Official website of the Sector for EU integration of the Republic's Government (English)