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Procedure : 2006/2289(INI)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : A6-0214/2007

Texts tabled :

A6-0214/2007

Debates :

PV 11/07/2007 - 17
CRE 11/07/2007 - 17

Votes :

PV 12/07/2007 - 6.12
CRE 12/07/2007 - 6.12
Explanations of votes

Texts adopted :

P6_TA(2007)0352

Debates
Wednesday, 11 July 2007 - Strasbourg OJ edition

17. 2006 Progress Report on the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (debate)
PV
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  President. The next item is the report by Erika Meijer, on behalf of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, on the 2006 Progress Report on the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (2006/2289(INI)) (A6-0214/2007).

 
  
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  Manuel Lobo Antunes, President-in-Office of the Council. (PT) Mr President, honourable Members, as you know, in December 2005, the European Council decided to confer candidate country status on the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, taking into consideration, above all, the substantial progress made by the country towards compliance with the legislative framework contained in the Ohrid Framework Agreement, and commitment to implementing the Stabilisation and Association Agreement.

The Council also stressed at the time that new stages on the road to fulfilling some of the conditions set out in its conclusions would have to be considered. A year later, in December 2006, the Council commended the progress made but expressed its regret that the pace of reform had slowed down in 2006. Under these circumstances, the European Council of December 2006 called for the pace of reform to be accelerated in essential areas and for priorities identified in the European partnership to be carried out in order for progress to be made towards accession.

The next meeting of the Stabilisation and Association Council with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, scheduled for 24 July in Brussels, will provide an opportunity to analyse the implementation of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement and to consider important matters that have arisen within the framework of the agreement, in addition to any other bilateral and international questions that may be of mutual interest.

Based on the Commission’s annual reports, the next of which is due in the autumn, the Council will make a more in-depth evaluation of the progress made by the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in complying with the conditions and requirements set by the EU.

As for the country’s internal situation, the EU attaches enormous importance to the existence of functioning, stable democratic institutions and effective political dialogue. These elements are essential for the process towards integration into the EU. In this context, I would like to commend the EVMRO, DPMNE and DUI parties for having reached an agreement on 29 May 2007 on the way forward on certain questions of mutual interest, and the DUI has subsequently returned to parliament. The Council now hopes that political dialogue on fundamentally important internal questions will continue between all the political parties represented in parliament and between all interested legitimate political institutions.

A constructive political atmosphere must be maintained if the country is to concentrate on the essential reforms needed for it to make headway on its path towards EU accession. Among the aspects that need particular attention are the strengthening of public administration, the effective primacy of law, judicial reform, the fight against corruption and the continuing implementation of the Stability and Association Agreement.

Equally worthy of mention in this context is the Ohrid Framework Agreement, the full and continued execution of which constitutes an essential element of the political criteria and will remain crucial to progress towards EU accession. In this respect, it is important that every confidence is maintained regarding the application of the Badinter Principle. We also hope that headway will continue to be made in areas such as decentralisation and fair representation. The Ohrid reforms should go ahead on the basis of an agreement that is as far-reaching as possible and that fully observes the spirit and the terms of the Framework Agreement.

 
  
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  Olli Rehn, Member of the Commission. Mr President, honourable Members, let me first thank the Portuguese Presidency and Mr Lobo Antunes for the priority the Portuguese Presidency is giving to the EU perspective on the Western Balkans as we have seen again today. That is very important for Europe’s future.

Mr Meijer’s report addresses many of the issues where the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia will face challenges on its path to the European Union, particularly in the political sphere. I am confident that the adoption of a resolution by Parliament will be an important contribution to the EU integration process of the country.

I welcome the strong emphasis placed in the motion for a resolution on the importance of the implementation of the 2001 Ohrid framework agreement. This agreement has not only been a promise of reconciliation and stability: it has also been a noticeable example of the difficult but rewarding art of making compromises for the common good.

The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia became a model in the region for promoting a multiethnic society in a unitary democratic state and for defining mechanisms allowing for a consensual approach to interethnic issues. This approach was indeed crucial for the EU in deciding to grant candidate status to the country in December 2005. Continuing in the same way will remain essential all along the accession process. In that context, the Commission welcomes the progress achieved in the political dialogue between the Government and part of the opposition.

Dialogue is indeed essential to ensure the stability and functioning of the institutions, as well as to ensure that the process of implementing the reforms is as inclusive as possible.

We now look forward to seeing this dialogue continue. We also look forward to seeing it deepen, especially in the Parliament, and lead to practical, real results. It is essential that the political agreement reached between the VMRO and the DUI will now be duly implemented.

Other key challenges include the effective implementation of the police and judiciary reforms as well as the fight against corruption and organised crime.

Your report rightly recognises the positive role which the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has played and is playing in the region. Nevertheless, we see the need to continue encouraging the country in its efforts towards regional cooperation and good neighbourly relations.

The Commission will assess the progress made by the country in our annual progress report which is due to be adopted on 7 November this year. We shall also present a proposal for a new partnership, drawing up a roadmap for reforms that are needed in the coming years in the country.

All in all, the country still has plenty of work ahead and progress on its European road will be determined by its ability to meet the political criteria.

To conclude, there are many challenges to be met. Progress in the EU integration process is indeed in the hands of the leaders of the country. I trust that the Government and Parliament of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia will take into account the sound and solid suggestions and recommendations contained in your motion for a resolution.

 
  
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  Erik Meijer (GUE/NGL), rapporteur. (NL) Mr President, the former Federal Republic of Yugoslavia has been carved up into six internationally recognised states and it looks as though Kosovo will be added to the list soon. What is striking is that the European Union has chosen a different approach for each of these seven states.

Slovenia has been a Member State for more than three years, successful negotiations with Croatia are under way and, since 2005, Macedonia has had the status of candidate country without this being accompanied by any negotiations. As for the other regions, only stabilisation and association have been discussed, in which respect Serbia and Bosnia have incurred major delays because they failed to meet the associated conditions.

This is all in stark contrast to the simultaneous admission in 2004 of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, which, until 1991, were occupied by the Soviet Union, on the one hand, and the Czech Republic and Slovakia, which formed a common state until 1993, on the other. I have always argued in favour of at least allowing the accession process of Croatia and Macedonia to coincide as much as possible, and I regret that, due to the delay in negotiations, Macedonia is now lagging behind Croatia by two years.

I am not saying that I think Macedonia is completely ready for accession. The serious environmental pollution and complicated status of trade unions are out of step with the European standard. Problems in the area of corruption and jurisdiction identified among other acceding countries have not been resolved yet either. The role of the state in the abduction and handover to American interrogators of a German citizen has not yet been clarified. In its initial phase, the present government placed a disproportionate level of pressure on economic growth, by, among other things, imposing extremely low taxes capable of ruining the country. These and other problems must be resolved in the next few years.

Two other things, however, have been dominating public opinion and the world of media both inside and outside Macedonia, namely the relationship among the different population groups in that country and the relationship with the neighbouring countries, Greece in particular. Other European states, especially Belgium and Switzerland, but also Spain, Italy and Finland, have shown how it is possible to successfully put residents on an equal footing despite major linguistic and cultural differences within those countries. In the initial years of independence, the impression was created too readily that Macedonia is mainly the state of the people who speak the Macedonian language, which is related to Bulgarian, and Serb to a lesser extent. Meanwhile, it is generally being recognised, fortunately, that education and administration in its own language are crucial for the huge Albanian population group, which makes up the majority in the North West.

Also, closer relations are pursued with future neighbour Kosovo, a country with which many residents have family ties. The recent agreements between the largest government party and the largest party of the Albanian-speaking residents, which had boycotted the parliamentary sittings for months, give hope for reconciliation and an increasingly more equivalent position of the Albanian population. In addition, the members of the much smaller populations, the Roma and Turks being the most well-known, are entitled to equal treatment, participation in decision-making and the holding of government positions. Macedonia now presents itself as a multi-ethnic state, which creates obligations.

Macedonia denotes a geographical region with a long-standing history of changing inhabitants, some of whom now belong to Greece and Bulgaria. The use of the same name for a state which comprises part of the region has created contradictions. Bulgaria, the state that, in 1878, was forced to give back to Turkey much of the part of Macedonia that had already been assigned to its territory, and subsequently had to watch as this area was taken over by Serbia, reconciled with the neighbours that had gained independence and was the first state to recognise the constitutional name of the Republic of Macedonia.

Its neighbour Greece, on the other hand, has strongly objected to this constitutional name since Macedonia’s independence in 1991. These days, the Greek position is that the name Macedonia is acceptable, provided that another phrase is added which makes it clear that the area concerned is only part of the historical area of Macedonia. The use of this name without any prefixes, certainly if this is accompanied by the use of symbols from Greek-Macedonian history, raises the suspicion in Greece that claim is being made to the territory of three provinces in the north of Greece that carry the same name.

I am not surprised by the invitations which my rapporteurship has yielded to opt unilaterally for one of the conflicting positions of the two neighbouring countries. I remain neutral and believe that both sides together should find a solution for dealing with their long-term difference of opinion in a constructive manner as quickly as possible. This includes agreements in a bid to avoid, and cancel out, any provocations with regard to symbols or maps. Even though public opinion may appeal to the national pride of its politicians on both sides of the border, it also wants tranquillity and cooperation. Without any proper agreements, there is the risk that the accession of Macedonia to the European Union will be delayed unnecessarily, even though its accession is what public opinion both at home and in Greece wants.

 
  
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  Anna Ibrisagic, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. (SV) Whenever we discuss a country and its relations with the EU, the discussions often turn into an inventory of things we think are good about that country or things we want to criticise about it. Often, we forget the bigger picture and the broader perspective. When we talk about the EU and enlargement, we too often talk about economic cooperation, money and the cost of enlargement. Too rarely, however, do we look at enlargement from the point of view of security policy and at European cooperation from the point of view of peace. In view of its rapprochement with the EU, Macedonia is a text-book example, teaching a lesson that we sometimes forget but of which Balkan history occasionally reminds us. Given its geopolitical situation, Macedonia is a valuable resource which can make a powerful contribution to security in the region. However, the same geopolitical situation also entails a variety of challenges and, sometimes, considerable strains for the country. It is therefore incredibly important that we give Macedonia clear prospects of EU membership – something that this report in fact does. Such prospects – not only for Macedonia but also for the whole region – may mean the difference between a route back to the conflicts of the past and a way forward involving a future of freedom and democracy. Prospects of EU membership also entail a number of obligations, however. The fight against corruption must continue. Cooperation between the majority and minorities of various kinds must be strengthened and a number of reforms initiated. I believe, however, that the Macedonians are already aware of these obligations and of the work that remains to be done because they have already implemented a number of the reforms needed to enable the country to be reunited as soon as possible with its European family. I say ‘reunited’ because Macedonia is, and always has been, a part of Europe. Without a safe and secure Macedonia, there will be no safety and security in the Balkans; and without peace and security in the Balkans, we shall not obtain a peaceful and secure Europe, either.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: MRS MORGANTINI
Vice-President

 
  
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  Józef Pinior, on behalf of the PSE Group. – (PL) Madam President, Erik Meijer’s progress report on the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia makes a positive assessment of the progress made by this country since it expressed its will to join the European Union. The Socialist Group in the European Parliament agrees with the importance of this report.

I would like to point out the progress Macedonia has made towards meeting the Copenhagen political criteria and implementing the recommendations of the European Partnership of 2005, the stabilisation and association agreement. Particularly important is the correct implementation of the Ohrid Agreement by the Macedonian authorities, which was made in close cooperation with the European Union, and which guarantees civic and political rights to all citizens regardless of their ethnic origin. The Ohrid Agreement HAS reformed Macedonia by fully recognising its multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-religious character. In this regard, we should stress the responsible foreign policy of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and its action towards international security and peace. Finally I would like to emphasise the good level cooperation between the authorities in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and the European Parliament, particularly the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Equal and peaceful co-existence in Macedonian society, observance of the letter and the spirit of the Ohrid agreement will have an important impact on that country’s aspirations for accession to the European Union. I would like once again to underline the political conclusion of this report: the Former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia has carried out reforms which should give rise to this country’s future membership of the European Union.

 
  
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  István Szent-Iványi, on behalf of the ALDE Group. (HU) Macedonia has been an official candidate for membership for the last 2 years, and has obvious European prospects. In spite of this, we still do not know when the accession negotiations will begin. We Liberals and Democrats would like to see the beginning of these negotiations as early as next year. But this depends largely on Macedonia.

Macedonia has made significant efforts in the past few years, and has achieved substantial results, but it still has a lot to do. Reforms are needed in the civil service, in the judiciary and in the police, and the fight against corruption also has to be intensified.

We note with regret that since the elections in June of last year, the reforms have lost momentum. We call upon our Macedonian friends to prepare for accession with renewed vigour. We consider important the full implementation of the Ohrid Framework Agreement, because we would like to see negotiations started as soon as possible.

It is gratifying that the largest opposition party has returned to Parliament after a boycott of half a year. In a democracy, a democratic party must defend the interests of the voters in Parliament, which is why we applaud and celebrate their return.

We consider the question of the use of Macedonia’s constitutional name a bilateral matter. This unresolved matter must not be an obstacle to Macedonia’s accession, and at the same time we hope that with UN mediation the negotiations will lead before long to a satisfactory outcome for everyone. We would like to see a favourable outcome.

Finally, we welcome the successful conclusion of the talks about easing visa requirements. We consider it very important that after 1 January it will be much easier for Macedonian citizens to get to EU territory, but we consider this to be only the first step. Our main objective is that before long, in the foreseeable future, all Macedonians should be able to enter EU territory without a visa.

 
  
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  Hanna Foltyn-Kubicka, on behalf of the UEN Group. – (PL) Madam President, Macedonia is undoubtedly a country whose place is in a united Europe, and I deeply believe that in the not too distant future, it will join the European Union as an equal member of the Community.

However, before this happens, this country still faces numerous challenges. It has to do more to protect the environment and to continue with economic and administrative reform. The most important issue, however, will be to build trust and to secure real equality between all ethnic groups.

The Ohrid Framework Agreement is a very important step in this direction. Mr Meijer’s report also points out the areas in which Macedonia has made significant progress by implementing many of the items of the stabilisation and association agreement, and towards meeting the Copenhagen criteria. All efforts must be made to support the Macedonian authorities in this process and to get real accession talks underway as soon as possible.

Brother Macedonians – we are expecting you.

 
  
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  Angelika Beer, on behalf of Verts/ALE Group. – (DE) Madam President, allow me, on behalf of the Green Group, to welcome our colleagues from the Macedonian Parliament delegation who have come to attend this debate in the European Parliament. This is a good sign: we were very concerned by the Albanian DUI party's boycotting of the parliament in recent months. Now they have all come together to this House, marking an end of the logjam in the reform process.

Commissioner Rehn, you mentioned the reform summit earlier, and it is fair to say that Mrs Merkel notched up a real success during her Presidency of the European Union. We no longer have an absorption problem – that debate is over – and now reforms in the candidate countries will determine whether we can allow them to join.

Let me say a few words about the EU at this juncture. I would like to ask the European Union how we can credibly demand major reforms in candidate countries when a Member State like the United Kingdom wants to deny its citizens fundamental rights. This credibility gap is something that the European Union needs to address, not the applicant countries. We cannot accept opt-outs on fundamental rights within Europe.

Macedonia has made huge progress, and we are in favour of rapid EU accession for Macedonia. So I have a request to make to the next speaker: he has one minute in which to withdraw his amendments, in which he constantly seeks to sabotage the agreement between Macedonia and Greece and thereby thwart a peaceful solution.

 
  
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  Georgios Karatzaferis, on behalf of the IND/DEM Group.(EL) Madam President, of course the FYROM must join Europe. No one doubts that it should. However, we must not underestimate certain issues, which both the Council and the Commission have underestimated, although the rapporteur made a reference to relations between the FYROM and Greece.

Greece cannot but be against this country for as long as it claims irredentist rights. They even claim territory through their Constitution. In their schoolbooks today, they teach that Greece is occupying territory in the FYROM.

Do you understand what this means? If tomorrow you strengthen this arrogance, it will be as if you are putting a powder keg back in the Balkans.

The FYROM must understand that all this, claiming the history of another country, a name that does not belong to them – it was Vardaska up to 1945 – is putting the area in great danger. Greece will be intractable if Skopje fails to demonstrate moderation and a conciliatory attitude on these claims.

 
  
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  Димитър Стоянов, от името на групата ITS. – Първо към г-н комисаря, искам да кажа, че Македония отдавна не е унитарна държава.

Македония стана жертва на една терористична банда, на един международен заговор срещу нея, на една банда от наркотрафиканти, подкрепени от международната общност, които веят знамето на великоалбанския шовинизъм и на радикалния ислям.

На Македония с т.нар. Охридско рамково споразумение й беше наложен един диктат, който не съществува никъде другаде в момента в никоя демократична държава, нито в този парламент, нито никъде, слава Богу. Диктат на една малка общност над волята на многото в тази държава.

Освен това искам да обърна една забележка към господин докладчика. За съжаление, трябва да се постараете малко повече да се запознаете с историята, защото в Македония, получили сте някаква представа, но в Македония не се говори македонски език.

И това ще го обясня с факта, който споменахте, че през 1878 г. 85 % от населението се е определяло като българи. Македония трябва да дойде в Европейския съюз. Аз подкрепям нейното присъединяване, за да получи някаква справедливост в крайна сметка.

 
  
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  Giorgos Dimitrakopoulos (PPE-DE).(EL) Madam President, first I wish to thank the rapporteur, Mr Meijer, for the cooperation which we had over this entire period in formulating certain amendments.

Of course, I too am in favour of the European prospects and future of the FYROM. However, precisely because there are these European prospects and future, the FYROM should not forget that the status of candidate country creates not only rights but also obligations, one of which is good neighbourly relations and the need to find commonly acceptable solutions to existing issues with neighbouring countries, as provided for in the Salzburg Declaration and, of course, the Stabilisation and Association Process.

Nor should it forget that, as far as the question of the name is concerned, it is clear that negotiations under the aegis of the United Nations must resume and that the FYROM must come to the negotiating table in good faith and with goodwill and a constructive attitude. This has always been the position of the international community.

Similarly, we must not forget that conduct has been noted recently on the part of the FYROM, such as the renaming of the airport to Alexander the Great Airport and a recent declaration by the FYROM Minister of Transport to the effect that, come what may, he will not change this name; conduct which conflicts with the letter and spirit of the 1995 interim agreement, which is based on the principle of good neighbourly relations.

This conduct must stop. Finally, numerous amendments have been tabled. There are some, such as those, for example, which aim to improve the paragraphs on passports, which must be passed, while others, which have to do with air traffic, such as Amendment 12, …

(The President cut off the speaker)

 
  
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  Panagiotis Beglitis (PSE).(EL) Madam President, we have consistently supported the European prospects of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and we have contributed to the economic reconstruction and democratisation of the institutions.

Greece in particular over recent years and following signature of the interim agreement, is the country with the most important economic and investment profile in Skopje and has helped to create thousands of jobs.

At the same time, we have worked realistically to find a commonly acceptable solution to the outstanding question of the name.

The question of the name is not a bilateral matter between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The framework for the solution has been shaped by the decisions of the UN Security Council, the interim agreement and the relevant decisions by the European Union.

Everyone who rushed to recognise the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia with its constitutional name, in breach of the institutional framework of the UN and the European Union, is doing a disservice to efforts to find an honourable compromise solution for the international name (I stress this) and is feeding the intransigence and nationalist climate in the political leadership of our neighbouring country.

We agree that this impasse must be lifted.

 
  
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  Bogusław Rogalski (UEN). – (PL) Madam President, In 2005 the Republic of Macedonia achieved candidate country status for membership of the European Union. Macedonia’s accession to our structures must be preceded by internal understanding to regulate the issue of coexistence of the various ethnic groups in the country on a basis of democracy and equality. This criterion must be fulfilled before Macedonia becomes an integral part of the EU. The country must set up a cohesive system of public administration and education that provides for linguistic and ethnic differences in a way that allows the ethnic groups and different national minorities to co-exist harmoniously.

The country must also speedily come to an agreement with Greece regarding the name of the country. Greece should show greater flexibility on this, as the issue of the name cannot under any circumstances be used as an obstacle to starting negotiations and Macedonia’s accession to the European Union.

On the issue of Macedonia we are guided not be emotions, but by the Copenhagen criteria.

 
  
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  Doris Pack (PPE-DE).(DE) Madam President, Macedonia has already come a long way towards joining the EU It is now an accession candidate. It has signed a Stabilisation and Association Agreement with the EU, but that is the easy part. There is still a lot for the Macedonian politicians to do.

Translating the Agreement into practical legislation will be tough, but it has to be tackled with dynamism, in the field of justice, for example, in the administration, the economy, in finance policy and particularly in the area of combating crime and corruption. This is the most pressing task facing the government and the parliament.

Macedonia has successfully ended a bloody conflict with the help of the international community, and now urgently needs to implement the Ohrid Agreement. The Badinter Commission is a useful instrument for issues relating to ethnic Albanians. However, it must not be allowed to prevent the necessary legislation being put in place, and should not be seen as a guide to how to form a government.

It is a pity that Macedonia's relationship with its neighbour, Greece, which, as we have just heard, invests a great deal in Macedonia, is still clouded by the name dispute. Nationalist talk on both sides is not helpful. This troubled relationship has gone so far as to result in Greece issuing two visas for Macedonians. Of course this unresolved bilateral issue will not prevent Macedonia joining the EU, but an early resolution would benefit all sides and should be possible with the assistance of the UN mediator.

The ambiguous status of neighbouring Kosovo has prompted a former Albanian rebel fighter who is currently a Macedonian MP to offer to take 10,000 Albanian fighters from Macedonia to fight for Kosovan independence.

I urge the Albanian population to concentrate on their own affairs in Macedonia and to leave the issue of Kosovo to the appropriate elected representatives.

 
  
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  Кристиан Вигенин (PSE). – Уважаеми колеги, днес обсъждаме напредъка на Република Македония в една по-оптимистична атмосфера: Европейският съвет вече отвори пътя за институционалната реформа, която е задължителна предпоставка за всяко бъдещо разширяване.

За периода на краткото си съществуване като държава Македония премина през различни кризи и много трудности, но запази стабилността си и възможностите си за развитие и просперитет. Именно тази жизнеспособност и перспективите за бъдещето трябва да бъдат източник на самочувствие за македонските граждани, а не подправената история или присвоените чужди исторически личности и символи.

За Македония са особено важни добросъседските отношения със страните-членки на Европейския съюз - България и Гърция. Има какво да се желае в тази посока и аз обръщам внимание на няколкото колеги от фракцията на "зелените", че борейки се за правата на несъществуващо македонско малцинство в България например, всъщност дават "храна" на националистите и от двете страни на границата и влошават перспективите на страната. За европейските социалисти е особено важно да се съхрани междуетническият диалог, а така също приоритетно да се решават проблеми като безработицата, остарялата инфраструктура и регионалните дисбаланси.

В заключение искам да подчертая, че ние ще подкрепяме реформите в Република Македония и се надяваме страната да стартира преговорите за присъединяване към Европейския съюз още в първата половина на 2008 г.

 
  
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  Manuel Lobo Antunes, President-in-Office of the Council. (PT) Madam President, very briefly, I believe, as I have said, that the Association Council with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia on 24 July will enable us to obtain a clearer idea of the progress that has been made in the country, as part of its candidature for full EU membership. Naturally, we await the progress report to be presented by the Commission in the autumn on the state of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia’s candidature process.

The Presidency and the Member States will certainly consider the Commission’s opinion on this question to be very important. Once the country has met the criteria for opening negotiations, those negotiations should, of course, begin.

The question of the country’s name or designation has also been mentioned on a number of occasions. During the first Portuguese Presidency in 1992, I was a member of the team – along with Lord Carrington and ambassador José Cutileiro –dealing with the issue of the former Yugoslavia and the question was already being posed at that time. I see that fifteen years later the problem has not gone away. I do hope that the parties can take sit down together at the negotiating table and work out a mutually acceptable solution.

 
  
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  Olli Rehn, Member of the Commission. Madam President, I would like to thank you for a very substantive and responsible debate. I fully agree with Mrs Ibrisagic, who underlined the security aspect of EU enlargement. We often talk only about integration capacity, but fortunately the December European Council last year was able to renew our consensus on enlargement, with the support of Parliament and the initiative of the Commission.

This renewed consensus on enlargement covers both sides of the coin: the strategic importance of enlargement for security and stability for enhancing our values of democracy and human rights, and combining it with integration capacity of the Union. Both sides are essential and both sides are important for a carefully managed EU accession process.

In this regard the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is a prime example. In 2001 the country was on the brink of a civil war. In 2005 the country was granted candidate status. It is a success story in this sense.

Last year we saw slower progress in the reforms, but that is a further reason why 2007 should the year when the country gets back on track on the European road, through the determined reforms that lead to practical results. Therefore, the focus for the government and all political parties should not be on dates for opening EU accession negotiations but rather on pursuing the reform process with full determination and practical results.

The reforms are the journey that will lead to the destination of opening the negotiations and then one day closing such negotiations. For that, the objective of EU accession should not become a party political football: all parties should be united in pursuing this objective and fostering a political climate conducive to the successful adoption of the necessary reforms.

That is why the mission of the representative of the parliamentary delegation of the country today here in Strasbourg is of paramount importance, and I trust they will carry this significant message back home with them to Skopje.

Finally, the Commission notes that there has been no progress recently on the name issue, as Mr Lobo Antunes said. That situation pretty much covers the past 15 years. The Commission hopes that both parties could renew their efforts, with a constructive approach to find a negotiated and mutually acceptable solution on the main issue under the auspices of the United Nations, thereby contributing to regional cooperation and good neighbourly relations.

 
  
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  President. – The debate is closed.

The vote will take place on Thursday 12 July 2007.

 
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