If the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia can break its current political stalemate, hold free and fair elections soon and put its reforms back on track, then there should be no further obstacles to starting EU accession talks with it, say MEPs in a resolution voted on Thursday. In a separate resolution, they welcome Montenegro’s steady progress towards EU accession.
Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
"The country is facing a critical time - not only has it been kept waiting too long at EU's door as a candidate, but it has also been confronted with the challenge of thousands of refugees at its borders", said rapporteur Ivo Vajgl (ALDE, SL). "The time has come for it to take a new step towards Euro-Atlantic integration and to start EU accession talks if the elections proceed in accordance with democratic standards", he added.
The resolution on the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, passed by 404 votes to 76, with 29 abstentions, urges its political leadership to implement the June/July 2015 settlement agreement in full and deliver urgent reforms. This would help the country to overcome its political crisis, prepare for early free and fair elections, now scheduled for 5 June 2016, and pave the way for the start of EU accession negotiations, which it has awaited for a decade already, note MEPs.
They also recognise that the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia "has acted as a responsible partner in coping with the huge influx of migrants and refugees", over 500,000 of whom transited through it last year. The European Commission should provide more support for its border management, the resolution adds.
MEPs also voice concerns about widespread corruption, particularly in state and local administrations, public procurement and political party financing, and urge the government to fight corruption in a non-selective manner.
"Montenegro continues to be the good news story of the Western Balkans and I am pleased that our resolution reflects that", said rapporteur Charles Tannock (ECR, UK), adding that "2016 is a very important year for Montenegro. In the year of its tenth anniversary since independence, the country is going to the polls in parliamentary elections and is in the process of crucial negotiations regarding its potential accession to NATO."
MEPs welcome the steady progress made in EU accession negotiations with Montenegro, but note that corruption remains a serious concern, particularly in public procurement, healthcare, education, spatial planning, privatisation and the construction sector. They call on Montenegro "to make combating corruption one of its priorities" and welcome the establishment of the Anti-Corruption Agency to this end.
They also commend Montenegro for contributing to EU-led crisis management missions and implementing international restrictive measures, including those taken response to Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea and events in Eastern Ukraine. Finally, MEPs also "welcome NATO's decision to invite Montenegro to join the alliance".