Lisbon Treaty brings hope for Macedonia

The news about the Lis­bon Treaty in Mace­do­nia was fol­lowed with great atten­tion. Mace­do­nia has been a can­di­date coun­try since 2005 and has been praised for its progress in the reforms in the last two Progress Reports of the EU Par­lia­ment. After the news about the Lis­bon Treaty, the Mace­don­ian media and pub­lic opin­ion have turned to pos­i­tive and hope­ful expec­ta­tions. Although over­shad­owed by the inter­nal issues and the over­all debate about the EU inte­gra­tion process of the coun­try, the main inter­est in the Repub­lic of Mace­do­nia in terms of the Lis­bon Treaty was enlarge­ment. “Will the Lis­bon Treaty speed up the inte­gra­tion of the West­ern Balka­ns? What will hap­pen next?” These were the ques­tions posed in many talk shows and opin­ion pieces in the news­pa­pers and TV. Accord­ing to the Mace­don­ian pub­lic, the treaty has a much more flex­i­ble approach in terms of the oth­er ques­tions and issues. The Lis­bon Treaty is expect­ed to ease the EU acces­sion of the Repub­lic of Mace­do­nia, because it clear­ly states that all coun­tries may become part of the Union, says the Min­is­ter for For­eign Affairs, Anto­nio Milosos­ki.11State­ment from Min­is­ter Milosos­ki for the news por­tal Time.mk, avail­able at: http://www.time.mk/read/cbcf09afa7/ae14c1077d/index.html (last access: 20 March 2010).

Is the EU pre­pared for a direct democ­ra­cy? This was one of the main ques­tions cir­cu­lat­ing in the Mace­don­ian media. Also, there is a lot of dis­cus­sion regard­ing the will­ing­ness of the “new EU” to embrace the can­di­date coun­tries and the pos­si­ble “tired­ness” of the EU for enlarge­ment and the wish of the EU to be left alone to deal with its inter­nal prob­lems first. In Mace­do­nia, these EU opin­ions and move­ments are fol­lowed with a great atten­tion, main­ly because it is regard­ed that EU inte­gra­tion is the first and fore­most impor­tant strate­gic and secu­ri­ty pri­or­i­ty of the country.

The debate in the coun­try between the polit­i­cal lead­ers is main­ly in the domes­tic are­na, in regard to the progress reports, the reforms need­ed for advanc­ing Macedonia’s posi­tion and get­ting an acces­sion date, rec­i­p­ro­cal accu­sa­tions between the polit­i­cal lead­ers about who’s to blame for not get­ting a date for nego­ti­a­tions, etc.

The new functions in the EU

The new func­tion of the Pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean Coun­cil was pos­i­tive­ly viewed, and always tied to the impli­ca­tions for Mace­do­nia from the cre­ation of this new func­tion. Her­man Van Rompuy was seen in a pos­i­tive light, as a leader who would give a voice to the EU regard­ing key issues, such as enlarge­ment. A big debate is the con­stant shift in direc­tion by the EU pres­i­den­cies. While some­times help­ful, this can be some­what bur­den­some. The debate revolves around the ques­tion: is a sta­ble pres­i­den­cy or a chang­ing pres­i­den­cy bet­ter for Mace­do­nia and its Euro­pean future?

With the rat­i­fi­ca­tion of the Lis­bon Treaty, the focus of the EU can be put back on the West­ern Balka­ns. That is how most of the ana­lyt­ics and politi­cians view the elec­tion of the Pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean Coun­cil and the High Rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Union for For­eign Affairs and Secu­ri­ty Pol­i­cy. It was recog­nised as a pos­i­tive sig­nal towards the enlarge­ment of the EU to the West­ern Balkan coun­tries. It shows that the process is alive, many experts from the NGO sec­tor analyse. Although both of the new func­tions don’t have com­pe­tences in the nego­ti­a­tion process of the can­di­date coun­tries, their role is still viewed as pos­i­tive, dia­logue enabling, and help­ful in the acces­sion of can­di­date coun­tries, in open­ing or clos­ing some of the nego­ti­a­tion chap­ters, and in pre­vent­ing vetoes from mem­ber states.22Part of these state­ments avail­able at: http://www.dw-online.eu/dw/article/0„4919103,00.html (last access: 27 April 2010).

European External Action Service and European Citizens’ Initiative

The news about the Euro­pean Exter­nal Action Ser­vice was com­ment­ed dif­fer­ent­ly. One aspect empha­sised was the con­cen­tra­tion on for­eign pol­i­cy and enlarge­ment, but also the cre­ation of new struc­tures with­in the EU. On the oth­er hand, there was a debate over the man­date of the EU to sign inter­na­tion­al treaties in the name of its mem­ber states and open embassies around the world, estab­lish­ing itself as a glob­al pow­er. Will that be at the cost of the mem­ber states? Will the EU act as a sin­gle state and is this trans­fer of pow­er sus­tain­able? These were some of the ques­tions posed in the Mace­don­ian media, with­out hav­ing answers this ear­ly in time.33Analy­sis of the dai­ly Biz­nis, avail­able at: http://biznis24.com.mk/node/5161 (last access: 10 May 2010).

In Mace­do­nia, the debate about the new Euro­pean Cit­i­zens’ Ini­tia­tive was not so strong. There were reports, most­ly in the writ­ten media, that EU cit­i­zens will be able to demand that the EU Com­mis­sion pro­pose new laws. It is still unclear how this “direct democ­ra­cy” exper­i­ment will func­tion in prac­tice and if this is a good idea at all.

    Footnotes

  • 1State­ment from Min­is­ter Milosos­ki for the news por­tal Time.mk, avail­able at: http://www.time.mk/read/cbcf09afa7/ae14c1077d/index.html (last access: 20 March 2010).
  • 2Part of these state­ments avail­able at: http://www.dw-online.eu/dw/article/0„4919103,00.html (last access: 27 April 2010).
  • 3Analy­sis of the dai­ly Biz­nis, avail­able at: http://biznis24.com.mk/node/5161 (last access: 10 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.