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Oct 14, 2009 15:38 EEST
SKOPJE (Macedonia), October 14 (SeeNews) – The European Commission on Wednesday recommended the opening of accession negotiations with Macedonia in the light of the progress achieved by the Balkan country.
Macedonia has made an important progress and has substantially addressed the key accession partnership priorities, the European Union executive said in a statement.
“The Commission considers that the country sufficiently fulfils the political criteria set by the Copenhagen European Council in 1993 and the Stabilisation and Association Process and therefore has decided to recommend the opening of accession negotiations,” it said.
Regarding political criteria, the Commisssion said that Macedonia’s presidential and local elections held earlier this year met most international standards. Furthermore, the key reforms of the police, the judiciary, public administration and corruption have been substantially addressed.
The Commission said that the implementation of the Ohrid Framework Agreement remains an essential element of democracy and rule of law in the country.
“There has been progress on implementing the law on languages, on decentralisation and equitable representation. However, further efforts in a constructive spirit are needed to fulfil the objectives of the Agreement,” it said.
The Ohrid Agreement was signed in 2001 to end an armed conflict between Macedonian security forces and ethnic Albanian rebels urging greater rights of their ethnic community.
The Commission also assessed that Macedonia has generally good relations with countries in the region, but noted that the relations with Greece continued to be affected by the unresolved name issue.
Macedonia is involved in a 18-year-old name dispute with its southern neighbour, which objects to the use of the name Republic of Macedonia, saying it implies territorial claims to the northernmost Greek province of the same name.
“Maintaining good neighbourly relations, including a negotiated and mutually acceptable solution to the name issue, remains essential,” the statement said.
Macedonia continued to move closer towards becoming a functioning market economy and made further progress in improving business environment, the Commission said. However, the country “should be able to cope with competitive pressures and market forces within the EU in the medium term, provided that it vigorously implements its reform programme in order to reduce significant structural weaknesses”.
Further improvements in the administration and the rule of law are also necessary, the Commission recommended.
Macedonia has made good progress in improving its ability to assume the obligations of membership, in particular as concerns transport, customs and taxation and justice, freedom and security. Less progress has been achieved in areas such as energy, the environment and employment and social policy, said the statement.
Visa-free travel for the citizens of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia from the beginning of 2010 will bring tangible benefits for citizens, it added. Macedonia was granted an EU candidate status in December 2005.
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