29.10.2009   

EN

Official Journal of the European Union

CE 259/35


2007 progress report on the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

P6_TA(2008)0172

European Parliament resolution of 23 April 2008 on the 2007 Progress Report on the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (2007/2268(INI))

(2009/C 259 E/07)

The European Parliament,

having regard to the Presidency Conclusions of the Thessaloniki European Council of 19-20 June 2003, at which the promise was made to all Western Balkan states that they would join the European Union,

having regard to Resolutions 817 (1993) of 7 April 1993 and 845 (1993) of 18 June 1993 of the United Nations (UN) Security Council,

having regard to the European Council decision of 16 December 2005 to grant the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia the status of candidate country for EU membership and the Presidency Conclusions of the European Councils of 15-16 June 2006 and of 14-15 December 2006,

bearing in mind the 1995 interim agreement between the Republic of Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia,

having regard to the conclusions of the Fourth Meeting of the EU-former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia Stabilisation and Association Council of 24 July 2007,

having regard to the EU/Western Balkans Declaration approved in Salzburg on 11 March 2006,

having regard to the Commission's Communication of 5 March 2008 to the European Parliament and the Council entitled ‘Western Balkans: Enhancing the European perspective’ (COM(2008)0127),

having regard to Council Decision 2008/212/EC of 18 February 2008 on the principles, priorities and conditions contained in the Accession Partnership with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (1),

having regard to the Commission's 2007 Progress Report on the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia of 6 November 2007 (SEC(2007)1432),

having regard to Parliament's resolution of 13 December 2006 on the Commission's Communication on the Enlargement Strategy and Main Challenges 2006–2007 (2),

having regard to its resolution of 12 July 2007 on the 2006 Progress Report on the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (3),

having regard to the recommendations of the EU-former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia Joint Parliamentary Committee of 29-30 January 2007 and 26-27 November 2007,

having regard to its position of 24 October 2007 on the proposal for a Council decision on the conclusion of the Agreement between the European Community and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia on the facilitation of issuance of short-stay visas (4),

having regard to its position of 24 October 2007 on the proposal for a Council decision on the conclusion of the Agreement between the European Community and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia on readmission (5),

having regard to Rule 45 of its Rules of Procedure,

having regard to the report of the Committee on Foreign Affairs (A6-0059/2008),

A.

whereas although the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia was granted the status of candidate for accession to the EU as long ago as 2005, as of today no date for the start of accession negotiations has yet been set; whereas this prolonged situation is adding frustration and uncertainty, having regard to the sustained pace of reforms undertaken lately by the Skopje authorities,

B.

bearing in mind that the EU-Western Balkans Declaration, which was unanimously approved by all the Foreign Ministers of the EU Member States and the Foreign Ministers of the Western Balkan States in Salzburg on 11 March 2006, reiterates the importance of good neighbourly relations and the need to find mutually acceptable solutions to outstanding issues with neighbouring countries,

C.

whereas a Member State, Greece, and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia are in the midst of a negotiation process taking place under the aegis of the United Nations in order to reach a mutually acceptable solution to the name of the candidate state,

1.   Welcomes the renewed political consensus on the accession of the country to the European Union and the considerable progress achieved since the abovementioned last Progress Report, published by the Commission in November 2007;

2.   Welcomes the adoption of the Law on the Public Prosecutors and the Law on the Council of Prosecutors as well as the Law on the Committee for Inter-Community Relations, listing the laws to be adopted by the double-majority rule (applying the Badinter principle), and the decision on the final appointment to the Judicial Council;

3.   Welcomes the establishment of the National Council for European Integration, which aims to achieve cross-party support for EU-related reforms and which is led by the leader of the opposition, as an important driving force behind the EU accession process; notes that the National Council sets the institutional priorities of the country in the preparatory stage of the negotiation process, by precisely allocating the necessary institutional set-up, human resources and budgetary funding; encourages the government and the parliament to maintain the momentum of reform and to continue with sustained, regular and constructive dialogue among all stakeholders involved, in a spirit of cooperation and consensus on the key issues of the country's European agenda;

4.   Welcomes the sustained efforts and the achievements of the government and parliament in the implementation of the Ohrid Framework Agreement and the increased recognition of the multi-ethnic character of the state; welcomes the commitment of the government and parliament to further promote inter-ethnic relations, which has resulted in the adoption of legislation such as the amendments adopted on 8 February 2007 to the Law on Public Holidays which lays down the various ethnic and religious holidays, and the increased budgetary allocations for promotion of the cultural values and traditions of non-majority communities; points out the need to improve the equitable representation of members of non-majority groups, notably in the public administration, the police and the military forces, and applauds the agreement reached on the choice of 45 draft laws which can be adopted by a Badinter majority only;

5.   Points out that the renewed political momentum on the European integration of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia results from a strong commitment expressed by all political forces; welcomes the regular and intensive dialogue pursued between the leaders of the four major political parties (VMRO-DPMNE, SDSM, DPA and DUI), which has resulted in the adoption of a number of laws, as well as measures relevant for further EU integration;

6.   Further welcomes the fact that, in accordance with the Ohrid Framework Agreement, more representatives of ethnic minorities are being employed in the public service, and hopes that the Ohrid Framework Agreement will continue to be consistently implemented;

7.   Commends the commitment of the leaders of the major political parties represented in the parliament to continue to work towards achieving progress on the remaining issues on which there are differences, such as the use of languages and the social package for the victims of the 2001 conflict;

8.   Welcomes the fact that marked progress has been achieved in the fight against organised crime and corruption in 2007, as well as significant progress in the fight against trafficking in persons and narcotics; calls on the government to continue implementing anti-corruption legislation and the reform of the judiciary, leading to a strengthening of the independence and the overall capacity of the judicial system;

9.   Commends the government on the progress that it has made in the economic area, while maintaining macroeconomic stability; welcomes the tax policy and the enhanced fiscal discipline that has resulted in increased state budget revenues; welcomes the improved business climate and the activities for reducing the legal and administrative barriers to business start-ups;

10.   Looks forward to the adoption of the new Banking Law in line with the EU acquis; notes the importance of adopting a new law on the National Bank in 2008, thereby strengthening that bank's independence, as well as the administrative capacities for supervision;

11.   Is concerned by the level of unemployment, which remains high, and urges the government to address this issue; notes particularly the situation in the villages bordering Kosovo, where tackling unemployment is vital in order to give the local population opportunities to earn legal income;

12.   Recalls the need for the continuous implementation of the Ohrid Framework Agreement as an instrument for promoting transnational confidence-building, which is the key to stability in the region;

13.   Recalls that the 2005 Law on the Use of Community Flags allows minority communities which constitute a majority within a municipality to use their flags; carefully notes that the Constitutional Court judgment of 24 October 2007 confirmed the right of a community to fly its flag alongside the state flag and that it also extended the right to fly an ethnic flag to all ethnic communities in a municipality and affirmed the right of ethnic Albanians to use the Albanian state flag as their ethnic symbol; stresses that the Court also sought to clarify the limits to this right because it considered that the state and community flags have different meanings, and concluded that community flags may not be flown permanently, for example during official state visits, or on state buildings; calls on all parties to discuss this issue in the spirit of the Ohrid Framework Agreement and international standards;

14.   Welcomes the action taken by the government to respond quickly to the recommendations of the European Commission's 2007 Progress Report and to adopt the revised National Plan for the Adoption of the Acquis in line with the priorities of the proposed 2008 Accession Partnership;

15.   Commends the work that is being carried out in the public administration in preparation for the EU accession negotiation process; calls on the authorities to continue the reform of the public administration in order to ensure its de-politicisation, professionalism, expertise and efficiency, and to refrain from any action that may jeopardise the administrative capacity already built up;

16.   Considers it a shared challenge for all political forces and ethnic communities within the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to demonstrate that the country is now free of conflicts viewed negatively both domestically and abroad which go beyond normal political differences, including boycotting democratic government institutions, and thus to demonstrate that the country is ready for the process of integration into the European Union;

17.   Supports the initiative of the Thessaloniki-based Center for Democracy and Reconciliation in Southeast Europe and the Soros Foundation to publish textbooks on Balkan history, in both the Albanian and the Macedonian languages, intended for history teachers and secondary school students and aimed at incorporating different views on the common past, providing a balanced perspective and promoting reconciliation;

18.   Notes that the draft Law on Revision of the Electoral Code, which would provide for the parliament to be enlarged by 13 seats in the interests of both representation of small ethnic minorities and representation of nationals living abroad, was given a reading on 27 September 2007; expresses its concern at the fact that the proposed Law would have the effect of bypassing the use of the Badinter majority rule as intended by the Ohrid Framework Agreement; emphasises that respecting the principle ‘pacta sunt servanda’ is crucial for the strengthening of mutual trust; considers it desirable, therefore, that a broad consensus, with the participation of the Albanian representatives, should be reached on any revision of the Electoral Code, and trusts that there will be further consultations in order to achieve this;

19.   Hopes that all provisions of the Electoral Law, including Article 27 on the appointment of the President of the Electoral Committee, will be fully respected; hopes that the ruling coalition will ensure fair and democratic early elections in compliance with the Constitution and the Electoral Law;

20.   Draws attention to the continuing discrimination against the Roma community, particularly in the areas of education, social protection, health care, housing and employment; hopes that the National Strategy for Roma will be implemented in accordance with its stated objectives in the near future;

21.   Welcomes the entry into force of the visa facilitation and readmission agreements with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia; notes, however, that access to the EU countries still represents a big problem for citizens of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and, generally, for citizens of the countries of the Western Balkans; underlines that the country must have access rules equivalent to those applying in respect of Croatia; supports, therefore, the launch by the European Commission on 20 February 2008 of a dialogue on visa liberalisation with the objective of establishing a road map leading ultimately to a visa-free regime, and calls on the Commission and the governments of the Member States to make every effort to bring about the prompt completion and implementation of the road map for full visa liberalisation without delay;

22.   In this regard, notes the introduction by the government of passports with biometric security features, the establishment of the National Visa Information System and the Visa Center, and the implementation of the Integrated Border Management System;

23.   Welcomes the adoption of the new Law on the Legal Status of Churches, Religious Communities and Religious Groups, to be applied as of May 2008, which will make it possible to put an end, once and for all, to complaints by small faith communities, in particular communities which have arisen or developed over the last few decades as a result of foreign proselytisation or by seceding from existing churches, about their not being allowed to build, own or use premises serving as prayer rooms;

24.   Welcomes the successful start of the second phase of the fiscal decentralisation in July 2007, when 42 out of 84 municipalities entered the process and a further nine municipalities joined;

25.   Points out that additional measures have been taken to promote women's rights, and specifically equal opportunities; insists, however, that the protection of women against all forms of violence must be increased;

26.   Points out that it is desirable, in accordance with the Broadcasting Law adopted in November 2005, to uphold the independence of public broadcasting from state bodies, give free rein to existing diversity of opinion and, in the process, prevent other media from being obstructed as a result of government meddling; urges the authorities to ensure public compliance with EU and Council of Europe standards on countering the resurgence of ‘hate speech’, particularly in the media, against neighbouring States;

27.   Notes that one-sided support for certain media products, e.g. in the form of government campaigns and advertisements by state-sponsored firms, leads to a distortion of competition in the media landscape and is thus prejudicial to other media, including those critical of the government;

28.   Welcomes the start of preparations for implementing the Police Law, full and effective application of which is a crucial challenge and constitutes a key priority for European association;

29.   Notes that the efforts with regard to the protection of water quality should be intensified on the basis of the new Law on Waters; points in particular to the great need to protect water quality and control pollution in the River Vardar, which drains most of the country and continues as the Axios carrying hazardous waste to Greek territory, and the frontier lakes Ohrid, Prespa and Dojran, and emphasises the need to conclude, and to ensure effective implementation of, relevant bilateral agreements with the neighbouring countries of Albania and Greece;

30.   Acknowledges that adoption of the Law on Waste Management has led to some progress on handling asbestos, waste collection and polychlorinated biphenyl and raw materials waste;

31.   Draws attention to the fact that the attitude towards the environment in general needs to be improved, and appeals to the authorities of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to continue efforts to bring its environmental legislation into line with accepted EU standards;

32.   Notes that on 7 November 2007, a large police operation took place around the village of Brodec, north of Tetovo, with the aim of apprehending a number of alleged criminals, in which six members of the so-called ‘Brodec gang’ were killed and a further 13 individuals from the village detained by the Ministry of Interior; notes that light and heavy weaponry was found in Brodec that included heavy machine guns and anti-aircraft missiles; points out that, according to the EU Monitoring Mission and the OSCE, the operation was carried out in a professional and effective manner resulting in no police or civilian casualties; welcomes the fact that the government has publicly stated that it will rebuild the mosque and other damaged infrastructure; expresses its concern about some reports that detainees may have been subjected to maltreatment on being arrested; calls in this regard on the Ombudsman to fully investigate the events and stresses that any outstanding questions relating to the police operation in Brodec should be addressed in an open, transparent and legally consistent manner;

33.   Salutes the progress made in the field of legislation concerning intellectual property rights, but emphasises that greater efforts are needed to ensure enforcement of the legislation adopted;

34.   Welcomes the active participation of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in the South East Europe Cooperation Process and its contribution to the establishment of the Regional Cooperation Council; equally welcomes its constructive position on the status of Kosovo; however, expresses concern over the delay in the technical demarcation of the border with Kosovo and considers that the issue should proceed as envisaged in the proposal put forward by Mr Martti Ahtisaari, former UN Special Envoy for the Kosovo status process; welcomes the active cooperation with Kosovo in trade, customs and police cooperation matters and the fact that, at the same time, good-neighbourly relations are being maintained with Serbia; welcomes the signing of free trade agreements with those two neighbours, and recommends a similar policy in relations with Albania, Bulgaria and Greece, especially in the field of transport and communications;

35.   Welcomes the contribution made by the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to the EU Althea mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina, acknowledges its role with regard to regional stability, and expresses its deep condolences to the country and to the families of the 11 peacekeepers who tragically died in a crash sustained by a military helicopter belonging to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia on 12 January 2008;

36.   Regrets the signing and the ratification by the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia of the Bilateral Immunity Agreement with the US authorities, granting citizens of that country exemption from the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court in The Hague; stresses that such an act runs counter to EU standards and policies, all aimed at supporting the International Criminal Court as well as the EU guiding principles concerning bilateral immunity agreements; calls on the government and parliament of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to bring its legislation into line with the principles and standards of the EU Member States;

37.   Notes that further investment is needed in developing the country's infrastructure links with its neighbours, which would contribute to the economic development and stability of the region as a whole, and calls on the government rapidly to complete the missing rail link between Skopje and Sofia;

38.   Takes note of the dissolution of parliament on 11 April 2008 and the calling of early elections in June 2008, and expresses the hope that the authorities will do their utmost to minimise any possible delay in the necessary preparations that should lead to the opening of accession talks before the end of 2008;

39.   Welcomes the increased bilateral cooperation, as well as people-to-people contacts between the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Greece; notes with satisfaction that, since the adoption of Parliament's abovementioned resolution of 12 July 2007, bilateral talks have been held in the region, under the auspices of the United Nations and assisted by Special Envoy Matthew Nimitz, with a view to finding a mutually acceptable solution to the difference that has arisen over the name of the country; notes the increased dynamics in the negotiations; calls on both sides to seize the opportunity to resume negotiations immediately in the light of the significant progress made recently and to reach a compromise solution, so that the issue does not continue to represent an obstacle to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia's membership of international organisations, as provided for in the Interim Accord of 1995, which is still in force;

40.   Recalling the Conclusions of General Affairs and External Relations Council of 10 December 2007, stresses the importance of regional cooperation, good neighbourly relations and the need to find mutually acceptable solutions to outstanding issues in the process of moving closer to the EU;

41.   Supports the efforts of the government of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to establish joint committees on education and history with neighbouring EU Member States with a view to reviewing possible discrepancies and misinterpretations of history that may cause disagreements, and urges the authorities to promote the joint celebration of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia's common cultural and historic heritage with its neighbours;

42.   Notes that, although the country has achieved significant progress since 2005 when it was given candidate status, of the three candidate countries it is the only country with which no accession negotiations have taken place to date; considers it desirable that this exceptional situation should end; calls on the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to ensure that the necessary reforms are undertaken; refers to the list of eight benchmarks that the Commission has drawn up, derived from the key priorities of the new Accession Partnership, and hopes that the attainment of these by the country will lead to opening of the accession negotiations before the end of 2008, which will further enhance the stability and strengthen the European prospects of the Western Balkans; asks the Council to evaluate at the next summit the progress made so far, and if possible to decide on a date for the start of the accession negotiations;

43.   Welcomes the preparations by the government for the implementation of the Instrument for Pre-Accession (IPA) which have facilitated signature of the Financing Agreement for IPA 2007 and the Framework Agreement for 2007-2013; reiterates the importance of the IPA for preparation for future EU membership; calls on both the government and the Commission to speed up the preparatory work so as to allow for early implementation of a decentralised system for the management of the IPA in order to create greater efficiency and local ownership of the process;

44.   Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council and the Commission, the governments and parliaments of the Member States and the government and parliament of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.


(1)  OJ L 80, 19.3.2008, p. 32.

(2)  OJ C 317 E, 23.12.2006, p. 480.

(3)  Texts Adopted, P6_TA(2007)0352.

(4)  Texts Adopted, P6_TA(2007)0454.

(5)  Texts Adopted, P6_TA(2007)0453.