Current issues in Macedonia

Accord­ing to the offi­cial “Pro­gramme for work of the Gov­ern­ment of Repub­lic of Mace­do­nia”, Macedonia’s for­eign pol­i­cy for the cur­rent peri­od was devot­ed to five strate­gic pri­or­i­ties: NATO mem­ber­ship, start­ing acces­sion nego­ti­a­tions with the EU and mem­ber­ship in the EU, lib­er­al­i­sa­tion (abol­ish­ing) of visas for Mace­don­ian cit­i­zens, over­com­ing the name dis­pute cre­at­ed by Greece, and strength­en­ing its eco­nom­ic and pub­lic diplo­ma­cy. Also, these were the ques­tions and issues most dis­cussed by the Mace­don­ian media and insti­tu­tions in the past period.

NATO mem­ber­ship remains a very painful bur­den for Mace­do­nia. After the fias­co at the Bucharest Sum­mit in 2008, when Mace­do­nia did not get its promised (and earned) mem­ber­ship because of the name dis­pute with Greece, it still con­tin­ued with its army reforms and con­tri­bu­tions to NATO mis­sions abroad. The Repub­lic of Mace­do­nia has com­plet­ed the longest prepa­ra­tions for mem­ber­ship in the alliance’s his­to­ry and is the fifth largest con­trib­u­tor to NATO’s inter­na­tion­al mis­sions, with regard to pop­u­la­tion, com­pared to all NATO mem­bers.11The mate­r­i­al is tak­en from the text of Bil­jana Jane­va for the Lead­er­ship Mon­i­tor­ing Report N. 2, pub­lished by the OHRID Insti­tute, p. 32, avail­able at: http://oi.org.mk/upload/Foreign-affairs‑2.pdf (last access: 20 July 2010).

The oth­er big debate is EU mem­ber­ship: the cri­te­ria, the pres­i­den­cies, the bench­marks, the reforms to be passed and the tem­po of the reforms (100 laws are to be passed in 2010). Also, a big issue is the cre­ation of nation­al nego­ti­at­ing teams for EU inte­gra­tion and their competencies.

One of the most impor­tant for­eign aims in Mace­do­nia was a com­plete lib­er­al­i­sa­tion of the visa regime with coun­tries in the Schen­gen zone, which hap­pened on 19 Decem­ber 2009 and brought unprece­dent­ed joy and hope for the Mace­don­ian people.

Regard­ing plans for mul­ti­lat­er­al activ­i­ties, the biggest for­eign-polit­i­cal engage­ment in the Repub­lic of Mace­do­nia in 2010 is the Pres­i­den­cy with the Com­mit­tee of Min­is­ters of the Coun­cil of Europe from May until Novem­ber. The pri­or­i­ties of the Mace­don­ian Pres­i­den­cy with the Coun­cil of Europe are the fight against cor­rup­tion, the reform of the Euro­pean Court of Human Rights through an increase in the effi­cien­cy of the judi­cia­ry and edu­ca­tion of the judges on a nation­al lev­el, inte­grat­ing nation­al minori­ties into Euro­pean soci­eties, the pro­mo­tion of the posi­tion of the Roma peo­ple, pro­tec­tion of the cul­tur­al her­itage and reli­gious dimen­sion of the inter-cul­tur­al dia­logue, as well as more active inclu­sion of the youth in the polit­i­cal and demo­c­ra­t­ic devel­op­ments of the coun­tries from South-east­ern Europe. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, the Mace­don­ian Pres­i­den­cy of the Coun­cil of Europe has not passed with­out scan­dals and prob­lems. Again, Greece blocked this impor­tant Mace­don­ian engage­ment with oppo­si­tion to its name, say­ing that it shouldn’t be called the Mace­don­ian Pres­i­den­cy, but the Pres­i­den­cy of FYROM. This would have been a new prece­dent in the Coun­cil of Europe, as every coun­try, regard­less of its offi­cial name, bears the pres­i­den­cy by its first name. That was why the Mace­don­ian Pres­i­den­cy was left as such. After all the ener­gy lost in the dis­putes and expla­na­tions, Mace­do­nia was final­ly able to focus on its Pres­i­den­cy pro­gramme.22More infor­ma­tion can be found on the news por­tal Time.mk, avail­able at: http://www.time.mk/read/10c69c2744/b4d33562/index.html (last access: 21 May 2010).

Of course, the most burn­ing issue, and the issue most present in the pub­lic domain, is the name dis­pute with Greece. Regard­ing the nego­ti­a­tions that the Repub­lic of Mace­do­nia par­tic­i­pates in with Greece under the patron­age of the Unit­ed Nations, a big step for­ward was evi­dent in the last peri­od. There were a num­ber of direct meet­ings between state offi­cials of the two coun­tries, which brought a sign of improve­ment of rela­tions between the coun­tries. The nego­ti­a­tions con­tin­ue, how­ev­er, and real progress hasn’t been made in the last months.

The experts’ opin­ion regard­ing the for­eign pol­i­cy of the Repub­lic of Mace­do­nia is that it is still bur­dened with inter­nal polit­i­cal process­es. It should be qual­i­ta­tive­ly strength­ened, which requires a nation­al con­sen­sus by all polit­i­cal par­ties regard­ing the pri­or­i­ties of the Mace­don­ian for­eign pol­i­cy, as well as the means for its suc­cess­ful real­i­sa­tion – dimin­ish­ing the influ­ence of inter­nal cross-par­ty dis­putes and build­ing and pro­mot­ing uni­ty in the rep­re­sen­ta­tion of Mace­don­ian for­eign-polit­i­cal pri­or­i­ties.33In the Lead­er­ship Mon­i­tor­ing Report N. 2, pub­lished by the OHRID Insti­tute, p. 37, avail­able at: http://oi.org.mk/upload/Foreign-affairs‑2.pdf (last access: 20 July 2010).

    Footnotes

  • 1The mate­r­i­al is tak­en from the text of Bil­jana Jane­va for the Lead­er­ship Mon­i­tor­ing Report N. 2, pub­lished by the OHRID Insti­tute, p. 32, avail­able at: http://oi.org.mk/upload/Foreign-affairs‑2.pdf (last access: 20 July 2010).
  • 2More infor­ma­tion can be found on the news por­tal Time.mk, avail­able at: http://www.time.mk/read/10c69c2744/b4d33562/index.html (last access: 21 May 2010).
  • 3In the Lead­er­ship Mon­i­tor­ing Report N. 2, pub­lished by the OHRID Insti­tute, p. 37, avail­able at: http://oi.org.mk/upload/Foreign-affairs‑2.pdf (last access: 20 July 2010).

The reports focus on a report­ing peri­od from Decem­ber 2009 until May 2010. This sur­vey was con­duct­ed on the basis of a ques­tion­naire that has been elab­o­rat­ed in March and April 2010. Most of the 31 reports were deliv­ered in May 2010.

The EU-27 Watch No. 9 receives sig­nif­i­cant fund­ing from the Otto Wolff-Foun­da­tion, Cologne, in the frame­work of the ‘Dia­log Europa der Otto Wolff-Stiftung’, and finan­cial sup­port from the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion. The Euro­pean Com­mis­sion is not respon­si­ble for any use that may be made of the infor­ma­tion con­tained therein.