In front of the gates of Europe

The Repub­lic of Mace­do­nia strong­ly sup­ports the EU enlarge­ment process for all West­ern Balkan coun­tries. The West­ern Balkan region is the only region which is bor­dered by the EU on all sides. How­ev­er, not only its geog­ra­phy, but also its mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism and rich mul­ti­eth­nic his­to­ry make it only nat­ur­al that it belongs to Europe.

Since Croa­t­ia solved the bilat­er­al issue with Slove­nia, it is clear that it is advanc­ing to the EU’s doorstep. The Repub­lic of Mace­do­nia was also part of the pack­age for acces­sion into the EU, and, hav­ing spent five years as a can­di­date coun­try, it has so far ful­filled the con­di­tions and bench­marks set by the EU and received a rec­om­men­da­tion by the EU Com­mis­sion in order to obtain a start date for the acces­sion nego­ti­a­tions. The only remain­ing obsta­cle keep­ing the Repub­lic of Mace­do­nia from receiv­ing a start date from the EU is the bilat­er­al issue with its south­ern neigh­bour – an absurd dis­pute over Macedonia’s con­sti­tu­tion­al name imposed by Greece. Yet, the Repub­lic of Mace­do­nia is will­ing to coop­er­ate and to solve this issue in order to take a step fur­ther and start nego­ti­a­tions. Nev­er­the­less, the name issue is a very sen­si­tive issue for the Mace­don­ian peo­ple, touch­ing their iden­ti­ty and language.

There was huge dis­ap­point­ment expressed by the Mace­don­ian pub­lic after the Coun­cil of Min­is­ters failed to give a start date for the acces­sion nego­ti­a­tions, and there was gen­er­al dis­sat­is­fac­tion from the “dou­ble stan­dards” imposed on Mace­do­nia and it not being judged by its merits.

“On the 60th anniver­sary of the day when Schu­man pre­sent­ed the pro­pos­al for a Unit­ed Europe, Mace­do­nia is the best exam­ple that the EU for­gets that his idea was that Europe be open to those who want to join, and also for­gets the idea of Jean Mon­net that the veto requires a strong rea­son and the abil­i­ty to look past the nation­al ego­ism”, writes the dai­ly Nova Make­doni­ja. “Mace­do­nia will pass yet anoth­er year put aside by the unprin­ci­pled pol­i­tics of the EU, which is dis­tant from the ideals of its vision­ar­ies. Mace­do­nia is the best exam­ple that the basic ideas of the founders of the EU are being ignored today, being blocked on its way toward Euro­pean inte­gra­tion by one mem­ber coun­try. If the found­ing fathers would be alive, they would have been dis­ap­point­ed that bilat­er­al issues stand in the way of enlarge­ment”, say the Mace­don­ian experts con­sult­ed by the news­pa­per. It quotes the Min­is­ter for For­eign Affairs of Mace­do­nia, Anto­nio Milosos­ki, that the dream of the founders of the EU – a Europe whole and unit­ed – can nev­er be realised with­out the Balka­ns.11Inter­views of the news­pa­per Nova Make­doni­ja, EU for­gets about the ideals of Mon­et and Shu­man, avail­able at: http://www.novamakedonija.com.mk/NewsDetal.asp?vest=5810918166&id=9&setIzdanie=21978 (last access: 8 May 2010). With the help of the EU, Mace­do­nia has so far suc­cess­ful­ly built a func­tion­al mod­el of democ­ra­cy in a mul­ti­eth­nic soci­ety, which can serve as an exam­ple for the region and abroad.

Hav­ing the close his­tor­i­cal and cul­tur­al con­nec­tions in mind, the Mace­don­ian mod­el is of great impor­tance for the oth­er Balkan coun­tries, and it has a pos­i­tive con­tri­bu­tion to region­al sta­bil­i­ty. That is why the acces­sion process in Mace­do­nia should be viewed in its larg­er con­text, not only trough the prism of the solu­tion of the name issue with Greece. “We are not look­ing for a short­er way, but a steady process which will enable us to advance on the basis of the Copen­hagen cri­te­ria. The start of the nego­ti­a­tions for Mace­do­nia will be a win-win solu­tion for all”, said Milosos­ki.22Speech by the Min­is­ter for For­eign Affairs of Mace­do­nia, Anto­nio Milosos­ki at a con­fer­ence in Swe­den, avail­able at: http://www.vlada.mk/?q=node/5406 (last access: 21 May 2010).

The atti­tudes in Mace­do­nia regard­ing its Euro­pean inte­gra­tion agen­da are mov­ing from total dis­ap­point­ment due to the fact that its future is blocked by a mem­ber state of the EU (which can last for sev­er­al years), trough encour­age­ment because of the fact that if the coun­try focus­es on the EU agen­da (the reforms fore­seen in the nego­ti­a­tion chap­ters and the leg­is­la­tion approx­i­ma­tion) it can short­en the length of the nego­ti­a­tion process even while sit­ting in the EU “wait­ing room”, to pos­i­tive views that the name issue will be resolved and Mace­do­nia is ready to imme­di­ate­ly start work­ing on the nego­ti­a­tion chap­ters.33Even with­out a date we can nego­ti­ate with EU, analy­ses Nova Make­doni­ja dai­ly news­pa­per, avail­able at: http://www.novamakedonija.com.mk/NewsDetal.asp?vest=5710102918&id=9&setIzdanie=21977 (last access: 7 May 2010).

Anoth­er issue, which is becom­ing more and more obvi­ous, is that EU offi­cials do not even use Macedonia’s name any more. Being aware of the name dis­pute between Mace­do­nia and Greece, and even know­ing that the coun­try has a tem­po­rary name ref­er­ence – “The For­mer Yugoslav Repub­lic of Mace­do­nia” or FYR of Mace­do­nia in short – EU offi­cials, either from igno­rance or from respect towards their Greek col­leagues, refer to the coun­try as “FYROM” (which is per­ceived as offen­sive by the Mace­don­ian peo­ple) or as “the coun­try”, “your coun­try” or, sim­ply, the For­mer Yugoslav Repub­lic.44Analy­sis by the time.mk news por­tal, avail­able at: http://www.time.mk/read/cbcf0afa7/ae14c1077d/index.html (last access: 20 May 2010).

After the bad news from Brus­sels that Mace­do­nia was not giv­en a date for open­ing nego­ti­a­tions, the gov­ern­ment blamed the EU for not set­ting a firm agen­da for Mace­do­nia. “The EU, in the same amount as Greece, will be guilty if Mace­do­nia doesn’t get a date for start­ing nego­ti­a­tions in June” was the mes­sage sent by both the Min­is­ter for For­eign Affairs and the Vice-Prime Min­is­ter for Euro­pean inte­gra­tion. Both of them called upon the EU to keep its cred­i­bil­i­ty and be prin­ci­pled in its deci­sion to start nego­ti­a­tions for Macedonia.

The oppo­si­tion, on the oth­er hand, says that the gov­ern­ment is ignor­ing the clear mes­sages from the EU that there is no oth­er way for mem­ber­ship except through a com­pro­mise in the name dis­pute with Greece. Accord­ing to the oppo­si­tion, by doing that, the gov­ern­ment is try­ing to cov­er up its own respon­si­bil­i­ty for the fail­ure, regard­less of all the con­se­quences Mace­do­nia might face both inter­nal­ly and exter­nal­ly. The oppo­si­tion leader Crvenkovs­ki said that this is anoth­er fail­ure by the gov­ern­ment, anoth­er missed chance for Mace­do­nia, which has been wait­ing for 20 months. “Self pity doesn’t move the coun­try for­ward”, says Crvenkovs­ki. “The prime min­is­ter should deal with the prob­lems, not tell us how hard it is for him and who is to blame for his fail­ure”.55Analy­sis and inter­views by A1 TV: Mace­do­nia asks for prin­ci­pal­i­ty by the EU, avail­able at: http://www.a1.com.mk/vesti/default.aspx?VestID=123988 (last access: 20 May 2010).

Membership perspectives

Regard­ing the prog­no­sis of the mem­ber­ship per­spec­tives of the coun­tries aspir­ing towards EU mem­ber­ship, pub­lic opin­ion is clear and real­is­tic. Croa­t­ia will undoubt­ed­ly become a mem­ber state. Ice­land will start its nego­ti­a­tions process. Ser­bia, Alba­nia and Mon­tene­gro will receive can­di­date sta­tus­es (and maybe start nego­ti­a­tions for mem­ber­ship before Mace­do­nia). Turkey is already nego­ti­at­ing and still has some issues, but is active­ly includ­ed in the Union for the Mediter­ranean. The neigh­bour­ing states are already planned in the new Europe 2020 Strat­e­gy. Where is Mace­do­nia in all of this? was the con­clu­sion drawn by a polit­i­cal talk show on A1 TV.66From Stu­dio 2 vo 20, aired on the 10 May 2010, avail­able at: http://a1.com.mk/default.aspx (last access: 20 July 2010).

The biggest fear in Mace­do­nia is that it will be “stuck” wait­ing for Ser­bia, Mon­tene­gro and Koso­vo so that these coun­tries can join togeth­er. Clear­ly, they aren’t on the same lev­el of devel­op­ment and the delay could only wors­en the frag­ile sit­u­a­tion in the country.

At the moment, pub­lic opin­ion in Mace­do­nia is not so cer­tain there will be a next round of enlarge­ment after Croa­t­ia, or, if there will be, when it would hap­pen. The uncer­tain­ty comes most­ly from the EU’s “tired­ness” con­cern­ing enlarge­ment and its will to resolve its own prob­lems before fur­ther enlarge­ment. Also, with Euro­pean eco­nom­ic recov­ery in ques­tion, it is still uncer­tain if the EU has the capac­i­ty to enlarge at the moment.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, that is not what the can­di­date and acces­sion coun­tries want to hear. The future looks much grim­mer with­out an EU inte­gra­tion per­spec­tive. It is a ques­tion of sta­bil­i­ty, eco­nom­ic pros­per­i­ty, access to mar­kets and, above all, peace and secu­ri­ty. Not hav­ing a clear sig­nal from the EU has a demo­ti­vat­ing and demor­al­is­ing influ­ence on the peo­ple: it attracts Euroscep­ti­cism, insta­bil­i­ty and uncertainty.

For Mace­do­nia, the unde­sir­able out­come of every EU meet­ing has con­se­quences in its polit­i­cal and intereth­nic rela­tions, as well as in the econ­o­my. Social and eco­nom­ic ten­sions are ris­ing and there is only one sub­ject in the inter­nal dis­cus­sion – the name issue.

There should be a clear and firm rule in the EU that one mem­ber state should not, in any con­di­tion, use its posi­tion to “bul­ly” a can­di­date coun­try which has ful­filled all the con­di­tions nec­es­sary for the next step in its acces­sion process. It should be reit­er­at­ed that bilat­er­al issues of any nature are only bilat­er­al issues between the two coun­tries, not between the EU as a whole and that coun­try. Or, if there is a rule that all bilat­er­al issues are indeed EU issues, then the EU should show true lead­er­ship and arbi­trate all bilat­er­al issues, present and poten­tial, between all mem­ber coun­tries and can­di­date coun­tries.77In the OHRID Institute’s Lead­er­ship Mon­i­tor­ing Report N 2, p. 43.

The Eastern Partnership and the Union for the Mediterranean

The gen­er­al opin­ion in Mace­do­nia regard­ing the East­ern Part­ner­ship (EaP) and the Union for the Mediter­ranean is that the EU should focus more on its own “back­yard” – the West­ern Balka­ns. The EU should deal with the clos­est issues first, as the Balkan region is not even a back­yard. It belongs to the EU: it is sur­round­ed on all sides by the EU, but it is not in the EU. With regard to the EaP, the debate revolves around whether the EU will focus more atten­tion on the EaP coun­tries from 2011 onward and for­get Mace­do­nia or force it to wait for the oth­er West­ern Balkan states (Ser­bia, Alba­nia, Mon­tene­gro and Koso­vo). “The West­ern Balka­ns were the focus in 2009, now it is Ice­land and the new neigh­bour­hood coun­tries will be next. Is Mace­do­nia lost? In any case, there will be a change in the pol­i­cy of the EU regard­ing enlarge­ment”, analy­ses the Dnevnik dai­ly news­pa­per.88Avail­able at: http://www.dnevnik.com.mk/default.asp?ItemID=DEBE6D4BCAA39995BD97D9006920FD74 (last access: 18 May 2010).

The coun­tries from the EaP are regard­ed as hav­ing more sup­port in the EU, espe­cial­ly among the new mem­ber states (from the 2004 and 2007 enlarge­ment). This will also be evi­dent in the instru­ment for pre-acces­sion assis­tance (IPA), which will prob­a­bly be dimin­ished or con­joined with the Euro­pean Neigh­bour­hood Pol­i­cy Instru­ment (ENPI), which will pit Mace­do­nia against big­ger com­pe­ti­tion, prog­noses the dai­ly Dnevnik. Most dis­cus­sions in pub­lic regard­ing the EaP are in cor­re­la­tion to the Mace­don­ian posi­tion and standpoint.

The cre­ation of the Union for the Mediter­ranean was con­sid­ered by many as a utopi­an and false hope for con­nect­ing the Mediter­ranean coun­tries and for cre­at­ing a greater influ­ence of Euro­pean pol­i­tics. The func­tion­ing of the Union for the Mediter­ranean is only mon­i­tored and report­ed in Macedonia.

    Footnotes

  • 1Inter­views of the news­pa­per Nova Make­doni­ja, EU for­gets about the ideals of Mon­et and Shu­man, avail­able at: http://www.novamakedonija.com.mk/NewsDetal.asp?vest=5810918166&id=9&setIzdanie=21978 (last access: 8 May 2010).
  • 2Speech by the Min­is­ter for For­eign Affairs of Mace­do­nia, Anto­nio Milosos­ki at a con­fer­ence in Swe­den, avail­able at: http://www.vlada.mk/?q=node/5406 (last access: 21 May 2010).
  • 3Even with­out a date we can nego­ti­ate with EU, analy­ses Nova Make­doni­ja dai­ly news­pa­per, avail­able at: http://www.novamakedonija.com.mk/NewsDetal.asp?vest=5710102918&id=9&setIzdanie=21977 (last access: 7 May 2010).
  • 4Analy­sis by the time.mk news por­tal, avail­able at: http://www.time.mk/read/cbcf0afa7/ae14c1077d/index.html (last access: 20 May 2010).
  • 5Analy­sis and inter­views by A1 TV: Mace­do­nia asks for prin­ci­pal­i­ty by the EU, avail­able at: http://www.a1.com.mk/vesti/default.aspx?VestID=123988 (last access: 20 May 2010).
  • 6From Stu­dio 2 vo 20, aired on the 10 May 2010, avail­able at: http://a1.com.mk/default.aspx (last access: 20 July 2010).
  • 7In the OHRID Institute’s Lead­er­ship Mon­i­tor­ing Report N 2, p. 43.
  • 8Avail­able at: http://www.dnevnik.com.mk/default.asp?ItemID=DEBE6D4BCAA39995BD97D9006920FD74 (last access: 18 May 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.