Sunday

25th Sep 2022

Opinion

Balkan enlargement is EU birthday test

  • "The appeal of membership pushes us to adopt reforms and helps us keep the peace" (Photo: ec.europa)

Fifty years ago European visionaries signed the Treaty of Rome setting the foundations for a modern day Europe. Today Europe has 27 members, almost 560 million citizens and it is the biggest market in the world. The economic indicators are convincing. EU average unemployment is down to 7 percent and its cumulative economic growth is at 3 percent.

But in order to compete on the global market, Europe may have to further intensify economic reforms, liberalize its markets and complete the enlargement process.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Without integrating the Western Balkans, Europe will struggle to manage its out-of area expansion and its global commitments as problems from the region will keep its focus on local issues.

Macedonia is managing its transition well. We are shifting into high gear in order to be ready for EU membership by 2010. This means we plan to fully meet the European standards of a functional democracy and prosperous market economy, capable of taking on the obligations of EU membership. My government has staked everything on this card, which given our geo-strategic and political context, is realistic. There is no alternative future for Macedonia to European membership. Thus, why wait?

Many of my EU colleagues are not convinced by the Macedonia case; others would prefer to deal with EU integration and forget about enlargement for now. Both accounts are off target. Macedonia is getting ready fast, and in some areas, our structures are more up-to date with respect to globalization than the average in the EU. Undertaking bold reforms is the only way - economy is the name of the game.

We must have the ability to sustain economic growth, political stability and social prosperity. Macedonia opted for the "one stop shop" approach to economic development. We simplified and streamlined our procedures so businesses can get registered in three days. We introduced a flat tax of 12 percent for both personal income and profit for 2007. This will fall to 10 percent in 2008. Furthermore, there is no tax for reinvested profits, and we require no start-up capital to open a business.

Our goal is to build the most competitive tax system in Europe, and have the most business-friendly climate in the region. This is why we are also investing in upgrading our infrastructure, including erecting a Wi-Fi network across the whole of Macedonia - we are the first in Europe to introduce this on a national level.

Comprehensive reforms in the field of the judiciary are under way. We are actively harmonizing our legislation with the EU, as well as on strengthening the institutional and administrative capacities to improve the implementation of law and enforcement record. These are fundamental to a modern economy.

Since politics is about managing people's expectations, Macedonian citizens need to feel that their daily lives are about to improve. This will help us stay the course on reforms. Also, foreign investors need to be assured of Macedonia's political stability. The EU membership prospect is the umbrella under which these two realities

converge.

There is much unhealthy scepticism in the region as to the reality of EU membership. Many simply don't believe in it. The status quo champions are arguing that enlargement fatigue is only a pretext to an enlargement pause. While the EU is looking inwards to deal with its own structural issues, it is important that the enlargement perspective stays alive.

This is why the Macedonian case is so interesting. Macedonia is a small country and integrating it into Europe is bound to be relatively easy. By opening up to Macedonia the EU would send a positive signal to the region.

The timing is right. As we approach the decision on the final status of Kosovo the presence of Europe in the region is immensely important- for Kosovo and Serbia, and for the neighbours. The appeal of membership pushes us to adopt reforms and helps us keep the peace.

Giving Macedonia a date to start our membership talks is a win-win for all. The EU internal process is unlikely to be impacted in any way by this decision, and yet, democracy, reforms, and economic progress in the region will win out in the long-run.

The author, Antonio Milososki, is the foreign minister of Macedonia.

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

How to apply the Nuremberg model for Russian war crimes

A Special Tribunal on Russian war crimes in Ukraine must be convened, because no permanent or existing international judicial institution is endowed with jurisdiction over Russian high-ranking officials, writes the head of the Ukraine delegation to the Council of Europe.

Losing on the Ukrainian battlefield will not unseat Putin

Notwithstanding the remarkable Ukrainian advances, a Russian defeat would not necessarily translate into regime change in Moscow. It is likely Putin will try to spin his military setbacks as evidence of the existential threat facing Russia.

Column

'Emancipatory catastrophism' — why being scared works wonders

The current energy crisis is a good example of "emancipatory catastrophism" — the idea that humanity only moves forward out of fear for a catastrophe. Sometimes one needs a looming disaster to change what should have been changed long ago.

Column

How to respond, if Moscow now offers peace talks

It is difficult to see how Vladimir Putin can survive more major setbacks or outright defeat. Should this happen, Russia will find itself in a major political crisis. But offering him negotiations now would help him, by easing domestic pressure.

News in Brief

  1. More Russians now crossing Finnish land border
  2. Report: EU to propose €584bn energy grid upgrade plan
  3. Morocco snubs Left MEPs probing asylum-seeker deaths
  4. EU urges calm after Putin's nuclear threat
  5. Council of Europe rejects Ukraine 'at gunpoint' referendums
  6. Lithuania raises army alert level after Russia's military call-up
  7. Finland 'closely monitoring' new Russian mobilisation
  8. Flights out of Moscow sell out after Putin mobilisation order

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  3. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  5. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling

Latest News

  1. Ireland joins EU hawks on Russia, as outrage spreads
  2. Editor's weekly digest: Plea for support edition
  3. Investors in renewables face uncertainty due to EU profits cap
  4. How to apply the Nuremberg model for Russian war crimes
  5. 'No big fish left' for further EU sanctions on Russians
  6. Meloni's likely win will not necessarily strengthen Orbán
  7. France latest EU member to step up government spending in 2023
  8. Big Tech now edges out Big Energy in EU lobbying

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us