CONTENT PREVIEW
Country Risk

European Commission recommendation to open negotiations with FYR Macedonia enhances government stability, makes judiciary improvements more likely

19 April 2018

Key Points

  • Government stability is likely to be improved.
  • The name dispute between FYR Macedonia and Greece is likely to be only partially resolved in the next few months.
  • The implementation of legislation aimed at improving the judicial system and public administration is likely to be facilitated.

Event

On 17 April 2018, the European Commission recommended opening negotiations with the Former Yugoslav Republic (FYR) Macedonia for accession to the European Union (EU). The Commission noted that the country has taken steps to restore the rule of law and trust in its institutions.European Union Commissioner for Enlargement Johannes Hahn (left) and Prime Minister Zoran Zaev hold a joint press conference after their meeting in Skopje, FYR  Macedonia on 26 June 2017. (Ivana Ramadanova/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)European Union Commissioner for Enlargement Johannes Hahn (left) and Prime Minister Zoran Zaev hold a joint press conference after their meeting in Skopje, FYR Macedonia on 26 June 2017. (Ivana Ramadanova/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

The Council of the EU, representing its member governments, still has to approve unanimously the start of negotiations. Since 2009 the Commission has recommended to the Council to commence accession talks with FYR Macedonia, which has been an EU candidate county since 2005. Greece, however, has opposed FYR Macedonia’s bid due to the lingering name dispute between the two countries. Moreover, political instability during 2015-16, preceded by deterioration in standards for the rule of law under the previous government also have blocked FYR Macedonia from making progress towards EU membership. In the past several months, however, Greece and FYR Macedonia have intensified diplomatic efforts to solve the name dispute. Both sides have stated that progress had been made, while Mathew Nimetz, the UN negotiator for the dispute, has said that the talks are moving in the right direction in spite of still unresolved issues.

Reform agenda

Since assuming power in May 2017, the government led by Zoran Zaev (centre-left Social Democratic Union of Macedonia - SDSM) has adopted policy changes focused on the judiciary, public administration, media and civil society sector, pushing through parliament some related legislative changes. In November 2017, the government presented a strategy for judicial sector reform during the period 2017-22. It includes strengthening the accountability of judges and prosecutors, including that of the Judicial Council – a governing body of the judiciary.

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