The EU member states should open EU accession talks with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia before the end of June 2013, the Foreign Affairs Committee said on Monday. In a vote on the country's 2012 progress report, MEPs called on the EU enlargement Commissioner to assess the cost of non-enlargement, including key risks for the country should the current status quo persist. The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia was granted EU candidate status in December 2005.
MEPs said that the start of negotiations could itself be a "game-changer", giving positive impetus to further reforms and promoting favourable relations with neighbours. They hailed the country's constructive role in its relations with other enlargement countries, and singled out the recent first meeting between representatives of Skopje and Sofia governments.
The committee also stressed that the inability to solve the name dispute has blocked the country's road to EU membership and called for definitive conclusion under the UN auspices without delay.
Unblocking political deadlock...
MEPs fully supported the recent agreement unblocking the deadlock in the domestic politics after a series of disturbing events on 24 December 2012, which saw a third of MPs and journalists forced out of the parliament. All political forces in the country must respect its parliament as a key democratic institution for discussing and resolving political differences, they added, calling for a comprehensive reform of the parliament's procedures.
... and alleviating inter-ethnic tensions
MEPs voiced concern about tensions in inter-ethnic relations in the country and urged that political dialogue be stepped up to eliminate the risk of a polarisation of society along ethnic lines.
The authorities and civil society must bring about an historic reconciliation that overcomes the divisions between and within different ethnic and national groups, including citizens of Bulgarian identity, MEPs underlined. They asked the government to send clear signals that discrimination on the basis of national identity is not tolerated in the country.
Corruption, judiciary and media
MEPs also insisted on the need for further effort to enforce anti-corruption legislation, ensure the independence and impartiality of the judiciary in practice and overcome widespread self-censorship among journalists.
The resolution, drafted by Richard Howitt (S&D, UK) and adopted by 39 votes to 13, with no abstentions, is likely to be put to a vote by the European Parliament as a whole at the May plenary session in Strasbourg.
In the chair: Andrey Kovatchev (EPP, BG)