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25th Aug 2019

MEPs urge EU to decide on Macedonia accession talks

  • Skopje - Macedonia has been an EU candidate for more than three years, but has yet to open membership talks (Photo: European Commission)

MEPs adopted a resolution on Thursday (12 March) calling on member states to set a date for opening accession talks with Macedonia this year.

In a resolution adopted by MEPs with 478 votes in favour and 92 against, the European Parliament said it "regrets …that, three years after it [Macedonia] was granted the status of candidate for membership of the EU, accession negotiations have not yet started, which is an unsustainable situation having demotivating effects for the country, and risks destabilising the region."

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The parliament "urges the Council [the EU member states] to accelerate this process by deciding on a date for the beginning of accession negotiations, during the current year [provided that other conditions are met]."

"We have to recognise that in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia things are not going worse than in other countries," said Dutch MEP Erik Meijer, referring to the problems with corruption and organised crime in the small Balkan country.

He said it would be at least 2017 before Macedonia makes it into the bloc, so negotiation may as well as start now.

Upcoming elections – 'moment of truth'

Macedonia was granted the status of EU candidate in December 2005, but accession talks have not been opened ever since, mainly due to Greece.

Athens has refused to recognise its neighbour's constitutional name - the Republic of Macedonia - since it declared independence from Yugoslavia in 1991.

This is because a northern region in Greece is also called Macedonia and Greece believes allowing Skopje to use the name will open the way to territorial claims. It also believes the appellation is part of its own historical heritage.

Greece has been blocking Macedonia's NATO bid for the same reason.

EU enlargement commissioner Olli Rehn stressed that "free and fair" presidential and local elections later this month and in April would be a key condition for Macedonia to be allowed to start accession talks, after violent incidents marked last year's general elections.

"I share [MEPs'] regret that, three years after the country achieved candidate status, accession negotiations have not yet started," Mr Rehn said in the parliament's plenary in Strasbourg on Wednesday.

"The key outstanding condition is the ability to meet international standards for the conduct of free and fair elections …The presidential and municipal elections in March and April will be a moment of truth," he added.

Time 'running out' for Croatia

MEPs also approved a Croatia resolution "deeply regretting that [Croatia's] accession negotiations have been effectively blocked for a considerable time because of bilateral issues."

Due to a dispute between Croatia and Slovenia on their common land and sea border Ljubljana has been blocking almost a third of the chapters of Zagreb's EU accession package.

But the parliamentarians said they were "confident that the goal of concluding negotiations in 2009 ...can [still] be achieved," provided that the Croatian government implements the needed reforms in fields such as corruption and organised crime, as well as administrative and judicial reform.

The Czech EU presidency expressed less optimistic views saying it was "concerned" about the stalemate between Slovenia and Croatia on solving the dispute and noting that "time is running out" for Zagreb to finish talks by the end of this year and become an EU member by 2011.

Macedonia name dispute 'holds hostage' EU credibility

Macedonia is ready to start accession talks with the EU and the fact that the old dispute with Greece over its name is hindering the process harms not just Skopje, but the EU's credibility as well, Macedonian foreign minister Antonio Milososki told EUobserver.

Croatia accepts EU mediation in border dispute with Slovenia

Croatia on Monday accepted an EU proposal to set up an expert group that would help solve its border dispute with Slovenia and unblock its EU talks, but stressed that such a group should lead to the issue eventually being brought before the International Court of Justice in the Hague.

EU split on Western Balkans accession

Europe's credibility is at risk in the Western Balkans, half its member states have warned - but EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said Albania and North Macedonia unlikely to start accession talks soon.

Tensions mount over Kosovo-Serbia deal

Serbia will never recognise Kosovo, Serbia's foreign minister has said, as the Western Balkans heads into a new period of turbulence.

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