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The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia applied for EU membership in March 2004. The Commission issued a favourable opinion in November 2005, and the Council decided in December 2005 to grant the country candidate status. In October 2009, the Commission recommended that accession negotiations be opened.
Post-2005: Combining the Roles of an Active Player and a Framework for Integration at an Advanced Stage of the Accession Process
Having applied for EU membership in 2004 and having obtained the status of candidate country for EU accession in 2005, Macedonia also became subject to EU conditionality through the regular progress reports and the European Partnerships. In fact, in 2005, in its relations with the region the EU introduced these formal instruments used in the previous enlargement, thereby developing its role as a framework for integration. These new instruments of monitoring were accompanied by institutional changes as the transfer of competences for the countries concerned from the Directorate General for External relations to the Directorate General for Enlargement. This change was ‘a symbolic move testifying to the Union’s strong commitment to the countries in question’. This set of reforms illustrates the post-2005 trend of developing the role of the EU in the region as a framework for integration in the long-term perspective. In other words, for the development and stabilization of this role, the Union needed to become a source of alternative solutions, rather than an actor involved in the everyday politics of the candidate countries.
This paper examines the role of the European Union in the Republic of Macedonia between 1997 and 2011 (updated) by focusing on the political criteria for EU accession. The text utilizes the distinction between the EU as an ‘active player’ in the mediation and conflict resolution in the region, and the EU as a ‘framework’, equipping countries with models of governance and policy options in the accession process. Using this distinction, the paper argues that, although in the common dynamics of accession it is expected that the EU role would progress from the former to the latter, in Macedonia these two roles have been intertwined. In order to demonstrate this argument the paper examines the issues the EU has included in the political criteria for accession and demonstrates the increasing EU involvement in areas of high politics traditionally limited to the domestic sphere. The analysis deals with three distinct periods of EU engagement in Macedonia: the Regional Approach of 1997, the Stabilisation and Association period between 2001 and 2004 and the post-2005 period in which Macedonia is a candidate country for accession. The three periods are marked by important milestones in Macedonia’s EU accession process. The analysis is based on qualitative methodology and relies on process tracing of official documents and secondary information, as well as data obtained through interviews with the elites involved in the EU accession process conducted in 2010 and 2011 (updated).
Political, also known as democratic, conditionality ‘emphasizes respect for and the furtherance of democratic rules, procedures and values’. In practical terms, it includes the Copenhagen political criteria for accession, but also a range of topics concerning the work of the parliament, government, judiciary, anti-corruption policy, protection of human rights and regional cooperation.