Accession of the Republic of North Macedonia to the European Union
Full-fledged membership in the European Union remains a strategic goal for the Republic of North Macedonia. Consequently, the key priority is to start accession negotiations with the European Union as soon as possible, based on the accomplished degree of economic integration, the consolidation of the legislation and institutions, the building of good-neighbourly relations and the contribution to regional cooperation.
Through its clearly pursued goal and unequivocal aspiration to become a full-fledged member of the European Union, the Republic of North Macedonia is manifesting its commitment to build a society based on values identical to those of the EU – respect for human rights, democracy, rule of law and functioning market economy.
In December 1995, then The Republic of Macedonia established diplomatic relations with the European Union as an expression of its proclivity to establish closer political and trade cooperation, but also as the first step towards full-fledged membership for which a broad political and social consensus has been reached ever since the country’s independence. In April 1997 North Macedonia signed the Cooperation Agreement with the former European Community, and in April 2001 the country signed the Stabilisation and Association Agreement, the first of its kind. The Agreement, which laid the foundations for deepened and structured cooperation in a number of areas, came into force in 2004. A year later, the country received candidate status, which opened new perspective and horizons for cooperation, including participation in EU programmes and policies.
The first recommendation to start accession negotiations with the European Union was made in the country’s 2009 Progress Report. Since then, the European Commission has consistently recommended the launch of accession talks, but these recommendations have not been translated into a decision by the Council of the EU to start negotiations.
On 26 June 2018, the Council of the European Union, in keeping with the country’s progress and the recommendations of the European Commission, adopted conclusions which paved the way to setting a date for the start of accession talks in June 2019. The Council also approved the implementation of the first stage of the screening process for EU accession, or the so-called explanatory screening through meetings in Brussels on separate chapters of the EU acquis.
In 2018, the Government adopted the Concept of Negotiating Structures, while in July 2019 it finalised the overall legal framework for the establishment of all the relevant bodies in the negotiating structure, in preparation for the start of accession talks with the European Union.
The positive 2019 report of the European Commission fully recognised the country’s achievements over the past year. With its unequivocal recommendation to start accession negotiations with North Macedonia, the European Commission notes that the country has made substantial progress both domestically and externally, especially in terms of building good-neighbourly relations.
The Council of the EU at its meeting of 18 June 2019, despite citing the recommendation and recognising the Prespa Agreement, as well as the Treaty with Bulgaria, concluded that it would revert to the issue of enlargement with a view to reaching a clear and substantive decision as soon as possible and no later than October 2019.
Despite the clearly defined dynamics set out in these decisions, the European Union failed to reach a consensus on the start of negotiations with North Macedonia during its 2019 October Summit.
The institutional and legislative framework for the country’s accession to the European Union is reflected in several documents: the National Programme for the Adoption of the Acquis (legislative changes and measures for institutional strengthening in the short and medium term), the National Economic Reform Programme (measures for implementing the Copenhagen Economic Criteria) and the National Development Plan (investment priorities for achieving the country’s developmental goals) – documents that are regularly adjusted annually in line with the recommendations of the European Commission.
Common Foreign and Security Policy of the European Union
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is the responsible institution in the Republic of North Macedonia for the coordination and implementation of Chapter 31 of the European Union which covers the Common Foreign and Security Policy.
Participation in the Common Foreign and Security Policy of the European Union is grounded on the political commitment to share the goals and priorities of this important common policy even before becoming an EU member. In this manner, the Republic of North Macedonia contributes to the efforts of the European Union to promote world peace and stability.
North Macedonia and the European Union hold regular political and expert consultations on common foreign and security policy issues aimed at establishing common positions on the current developments in the international arena, as well as at enhancing the institutional capacities of the country for its full participation in this common policy of the European Union in the future.
An important aspect of cooperation in this regard is also the adherence to joint declarations, statements and other legal acts of the European Union. A high degree of compliance with EU’s positions has been achieved within this framework as this is also subject to evaluation in the annual reports of the European Commission on the country’s readiness for membership.
Furthermore, North Macedonia prominently complies with and implements the decisions of the Council of the EU which imposes restrictive measures (sanctions) against countries, entities, organisations or persons that undermine peace and stability in the world. The compliance with the Council’s decisions concerning restrictive measures is carried out under the Law on Restrictive Measures (adopted in 2017).
The Law on Restrictive Measures regulates the introduction, amendments to and termination of the validity of restrictive measures. A coordinative body has been established under this Law for monitoring the implementation of the restrictive measures the Republic of North Macedonia has aligned itself with for a period of four years, which has supervisory competence over the implementation of the restrictive measures. The administrative activities of the coordinating body are carried out by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
With regard to the Common Security and Defence Policy, which is an important component of EU’s foreign policy, North Macedonia strives to contribute to the achievement of common goals by participating with personnel and expertise in the military mission of the European Union - EUFOR ALTHEA (Bosnia and Herzegovina). In the context of increasing its participation in EU-led international missions, in cooperation with the Republic of France and in line with its capabilities and capacities, the Republic of North Macedonia also contributes with HQ staff to the EU Training Mission EUTM RCA in the Central African Republic.
As we progress on the path to EU integration, the participation in these two common EU policies gains momentum and quality, and the importance attached thereof speaks to the fact that discussions on these topics are placed high on the agenda of the regular political dialogue.
The legal and institutional framework for the participation in the Common Foreign and Security Policy, which is being developed, inter alia, through the National Program for the Approximation of Legislation with EU Acquis, including our activities in this area, are subject to regular evaluation by the European Commission concerning the fulfilment of the membership criteria.